Since the release of the Trauma Center: Under the Knife on the Nintendo DS in 2005, the Trauma series has garnered critical acclaim and a large following for Atlus. Trauma Team, which was revealed during E3 2009, expands the series into a new direction, allowing players to experience other medical fields besides surgery, such as forensics and endoscopy, each of which overlap each other in the overall storyline. Over the last few months Atlus has been revealing more information about the various modes, leaving only two out of the six left to explore. Thanks to a recent demo from Atlus, we have a brand-new look into one of the two remaining modes: Diagnosis.
The Diagnosis mode follows Doctor Gabriel Cunningham, whose keen intellect and insight have made him one of the finest medical minds in Resurgram First Care. Unlike the other modes in the game, which revolve around surgery or medical treatment, Diagnosis will have the player talk with the patient to gather information, so the proper diagnosis of their disease can be made. Each chapter starts off with a cutscene, which is presented in a stylized comic book-style format with voice-overs, which are much more prevalent than in the Trauma Center games. The mode uses a point-and-click interface, which should be familiar to anyone who has played adventure games or the Phoenix Wright series.
Unlike the other modes, Diagnosis does not use a time limit, instead giving the player five hearts, each of which get taken away as the player makes an incorrect guess. Initially, the player starts by questioning the patient. Dialog boxes will pop up, and similarly to cross-examination in the Phoenix Wright games, at any point the player can select any statement they think might signal a symptom, but if they are wrong, they will lose a heart. On the other hand, if it's right, the symptom will be logged into a database ran by Gabriel's robot partner, RONI. In addition to listening to the patient, Trauma Team also lets you click on parts of their body which might signal an issue, such as in the demo where the patient's leg kept twitching, signaling a symptom.
After the questioning, the player can take a look at a massive list of the patient's vitals to search for abnormalities. As an example, if the patient's blood pressure was high that would signal a symptom. For those who aren't steeped in medical knowledge, Trauma Team gives a brief description of each item in the list just by clicking the title, which gives the game a much more authentic feel.
After this is where the real meat of the game begins, with options such as CT scans and stethoscopes. This isn't easy as one might think because the patient needs to give their consent to do any tests, and some patients will not cooperate. In the demo, the patient had to be annoyed about Gabriel making fun of his weight before he would cooperate. These tests rely on finding patterns or abnormalities. There are two photos: one of the patient and one of a healthy person. This creates a experience similar to a game of "Where's Waldo", where the player has to find even the most rare inconsistency, which can get quite hard, as one of the inconsistencies in the demo required a keen eye to notice.
After looking at all of the evidence, it's time to try to make a diagnosis. This takes places in Gabriel's office, where RONI will present a list of all of the related diseases from its database. If one notices a familiar symptom it can be clicked, which will check off one of the checkboxes on a diagnosis. Like before with the questioning phase, choosing the wrong symptom takes away a heart. At the end, the choice with the most checkboxes checked off will have to be selected, but even then it isn't as easy as it sounds, since in the demo there were two diseases where all of the symptoms checked out. In this case, the player will have to determine which one fits the patient better. This becomes important when facing the patient, as that diagnosis might only be just a stepping stone, since the patient might reveal new information that changes the diagnosis.
Unlike the other modes, which span five to ten minutes, Diagnosis (as well as Forensics) can be over an hour in length. To help the player, Diagnosis has automatic checkpoints, as well as the ability to save at any time in Gabriel's office. In addition, when the player is missing a key piece of evidence, the game will alert you, so it is impossible to get stuck just because you don't know what room to go to. For a mode which requires such attention to detail, these little touches make the gameplay much more enjoyable.
The demo also had a quick peek at the First Response mode, which falls much closer to the standard Trauma Center gameplay fans know and love. In contrast to Diagnosis's slow and methodical analysis, first response is based around quick thinking and reflexes. Unlike the surgery portion of Trauma Team, the player isn't doing full-blown surgery --- instead, the focus is on patching up patients to the point where they will arrive at the hospital. This involves putting arms into splints, removing shrapnel, bandaging wounds, etc., similar to a real-life EMT. There are also environmental hazards, such as live wires which were present in the demo. And unlike Surgery which features a sole patient, the player will have to switch between multiple patients whose vitals may be dropping fast --- Trauma Team doesn't pause the status of one patient while you are working on another.
Outside of the Diagnosis reveal, other information about Trauma Team was also revealed. Atlus has confirmed that the game will support 480p widescreen and will have multiple difficulty modes. Easy and Normal will be available at the start, with a hard mode unlockable after the game is completed, which will "offer a challenge" to veterans of Trauma Center. Local cooperative multiplayer is also included in the First Response, Surgery, Endoscopy and Orthopedics modes (excluding Forensics and Diagnosis due to their differences in gameplay). In addition, those four modes also have rankings and a letter grade similar to the Trauma Center titles, which are given per difficulty level. While it hasn't been revealed, Atlus is saying that there will be an incentive to do so. Trauma Team is set to be released on May 18, 2010 in North America.