The Trauma Center series has delivered blood and guts to Nintendo platforms since the launch of Under the Knife for the DS in 2005, and really came to prominence when Second Opinion was released as a launch game for the Wii. Using a series of minigame-style scenes, players would operate on patients with a variety of ailments, accompanied by a melodramatic storyline full of over-the-top characters. It's also delivered a heck of a lot of weirdness, with themes of bizarre science fiction and the supernatural.
For the latest game, the designers are looking to bring the series a bit closer to the plausible. Trauma Team, due in Spring of 2010 for the Wii, still takes place in the future, but it's a little less "out-there," in the words of an Atlus representative.
This time, rather than focusing on a single character, Trauma Team follows the careers of six different specialists. The surgeon's storyline should prove familiar to fans of the previous game. The forensic examiner's features CSI-style investigative work. The orthopedic surgeon's focus relies more on medical technology, like using implants to enhance bones and joints. The diagnostician's story is a bit more like an adventure game, with lots of patient interaction and a more character-driven, adventure game-style story. The endoscope technician uses gadgets to get an inside look at the patient's body. And the EMT deals with urgent care and first aid.
And Atlus is aiming to make all six of these storylines more accessible to new players. Apparently, fans of the previous games have spoken out, and the consensus is that the series is just a little too outlandish with its off-the-wall weirdness. So the intention this time is to present more of a feeling of working in a real hospital.
But don't get me wrong, it's still going to maintain the slightly campy vibe of its predecessors. In fact, a new method of storytelling gives the game an even more cartoonish feel in some ways: instead of the dull dialogue bits, where a static character image slides in from the side of the screen as text is displayed at the bottom, the story segments I saw are presented in much more of a comic-book style, in the vein of games like Elite Beat Agents. Scenes are lightly animated in multiple panels, with speech bubbles delivering dialogue and appropriately cartoonish visual effects.
With the game so far out, Atlus isn't showing anything more than story-based cinematics and a few, very early, conceptual gameplay visuals. So there's almost no indication of how the game will actually play; all I can tell you for certain is that the endoscope technician plies his trade by pushing the Wiimote forward as though feeding a tube down a patient's throat (or, um, elsewhere). But the previous games have all done a good enough job of giving players a taste of the surgeon's life that there's no reason to think this one will be any different.