Welcome to Save State, where the grass is green but we can’t see it because it’s covered in snow. The last week or so the area in which I live was hit by a decent sized winter storm, so I’ve been spending my time getting familiar with some older games that I’ve had for some time, but not fully completed. Thanks to some impromptu time off work, my wife and I reorganized the game shelves and storage boxes, and I discovered a whole bunch of games from a decade ago that I didn’t even realize I had. The first of these games was Trauma Team for the Nintendo Wii, released around 2010.
The first game in this series, Trauma Center: Under the Knife for the Nintendo DS, featured an up and coming surgeon named Derek Stiles and his journey from an ER physician to one of the most talented surgeons in the world and among the few capable of combating a disease spread by terrorists called GUILT. It had a pretty entertaining story that ramped up the story with believable absurdity™ and a cast of great characters. Even better than the story elements were the gameplay mechanics- as a Nintendo DS title, Trauma Center: Under the Knife utilized the DS’s touch screen for utilizing various tools to remove glass shards from accident victims, set bones in place, or use the surgical laser to destroy a virulent body that is basically a tiny fish with razor blades, cutting up someone’s intestines (again, believable absurdity™).
Truth be told, though, the controls translated almost perfectly from touchscreen to Wii Remote pointer controls in shifting from the Nintendo DS to the Wii. Trauma Team was basically everything someone would love about Under the Knife, but with a whole new cast of characters to keep things interesting. As the fifth game in the Trauma Center series and the third one on the Nintendo Wii in about four years, it was probably time for some kind of change as the series largely hadn’t advanced considerably beyond the first DS and Wii games of the series. Featuring six doctors who each specialize in different fields allowed the developers to incorporate dramatically different gameplay elements without them seeming jarring- if you have a level to play as Hank Freebird then you know you’re going to be performing orthopedic surgery (and yes that’s his name. Again, believable absurdity™).
The six different play styles are, as Hank would say, rock solid. Gabriel Cunningham is the resident House MD of the group, giving the player a play style where you actually discern and diagnose characters in an examination room. Gabriel doesn’t have too many missions, but they make nice changes of pace. Tomoe Tachibana performs endoscopic procedures, Maria Torres is the EMT who stabilizes patients en route to the hospital, Naomi Kimishima from Trauma Center: Second Opinion makes a return as a forensic medicine expert, and CR-S01 is the main surgeon character of the game who largely utilizes the gameplay styles of the previous Trauma Center games.
These six distinct gameplay styles are form a great mesh as you move throughout the story of Trauma Team. A patient who collapsed on a train platform and is stabilized by the EMT may later be operated on by the surgeon, giving you a more complete idea of a patient’s treatment as you progress to the point where an inevitable virus outbreak occurs that ramps up the sci-fi fantasy elements to get the player invested. The campaigns of the game are laid out in a kind of grid fashion and individual cells of the grid tell you when certain events occur in relation to the other characters- so you always have a general idea of when one medical professional is doing something at a specific point in time. You can play one character’s missions straight through, or experience all events in order with each doctor- the choice is up to you.
It’s really fun to be performing orthopedic surgery on a character that you diagnosed in another doctor’s story, and the non-linear manner in which the game presents story details is actually quite interesting. Of course, after completing all of each doctor’s missions, a final group of missions will open up that has each physician working with the others in the climax to prevent a worldwide viral outbreak. Speaking of, the game features a potential virus outbreak and takes place in 2020. So, you know, that’s pretty fun too, and make for a depressingly interesting thing to see given the circumstances of this last year.
All in all, Trauma Team is a great combination of different play styles that forms into a very entertaining package, that will keep you hooked for around 25-30 hours. It features cooperative play with a second player, too, so you and another player can split tools and work together to clear missions. With a great art style and a story conveyed through well drawn comic book-esque cutscenes, Trauma Team really does have a lot to offer if you’re willing to adapt to different play styles as you progress through the game. It truly is… Rock solid.
Speaking of rocks and their solid…ness, the other game that was played over the last couple weeks was Mega Man 11 (known as Rock Man in Japan. I know, I know, the transition isn’t good when you have to explain it). When this released I bought the version with the amiibo in the box because I really, really like Mega Man, but I never opened it- until now. I popped that game cartridge into my Switch and it was like getting reacquainted with an old friend. As someone who had played basically every Mega Man game to release in North America, missing out on 11 was a stain on my otherwise peerless Mega Man career.
Mega Man 11 has you take control of the titular blue bomber to defeat eight robot masters and eventually, Doctor Wily. It’s the same song and dance that’s been told time and again since 1987, but this time Mega Man has been upgraded with the Double Gear system to reinvigorate the gameplay for the first time in the classic series since… well, since the slide and charge shot were introduced back in 1990 and 1992, respectively. The classic level design of Mega Man is here, though if the last games you’ve played were Mega Man 9 or 10, then know that the levels are substantially less punishing in this particular game.
The tough as nails platforming is still present in Mega Man 11, it’s just not as overtly difficult as the last couple entries. There are a lot of things that may jump out at you or otherwise require perfect play to get past, such as enemy robots popping out of pits and giant walls of flame chasing you through the stage, but usage of the Speed Gear gives you so much room to breathe that makes this one of the easier Mega Man titles released in the classic series.
You see, the Speed Gear slows everything down so you can more easily weave through enemy shots while platforming through tricky jumps, and a later upgrade increases your movement speed while in Speed Gear so it becomes even more advantageous as you play. The Power Gear, on the other hand, lets you overclock your weapons for more powerful attacks. Similar to X in the Mega Man X series, attributes of attacks will change when charged up via Power Gear, such as causing Block Dropper to rain sixteen cubes down instead of a measly four. This can can be very useful to quickly dispatch powerful enemies blocking your path or even bosses. Mastering these two systems, activated by pressing the shoulder buttons, you can make the game easier or more difficult for yourself depending on how you want to play.
You can also activate both Gears at once by pressing both shoulder buttons simultaneously, though it can only be activated when you’re at low health and can’t be canceled until the Gear meter empties completely. Using up the entire Gear gauge overheats Mega Man so you can’t activate the Gear system until cooling off, and in the case of activating Double Gear, you can’t even fire shots until you allow the meter to completely refill again. Proper utilization of Speed, Power, and Double Gear are fairly important, as Double Gear makes an excellent last ditch effort to defeat a boss that has you against the ropes, but if you fail to defeat them in time you’re left as the prettiest sitting duck in the park.
Beyond the introduction of the Double Gear system, however, Mega Man 11 is basically the classic gameplay everyone knows and loves from Jump and Shoot Man. Jump, shoot, dodge, and slide your way through a variety of stages to defeat the robots at the end and acquire their powers- it’s all here. The graphics look fine, as everything is bright and colorful and it’s easy to tell where Mega is on screen in relation to the enemies and platforms. Truthfully, the music is probably the weakest component of the entire package: Mega Man was pretty known for its music- that’s why most recurring characters are named after musical terms- Rock Man, Rush (yes, the dog literally evokes the name of a band), Roll, Bass, Treble, and more. The tracks in Mega Man 11 are a kind of sedative techno that become very repetitive due to the very short loops of each song, though that is pretty nit-picky.
For the most part, the action in Mega Man 11 is on point. The level design proves that Capcom can still make a solid Mega Man game even after an eight year gap in titles. After such a long gap of interest in developing new Mega Man games, seeing Capcom come out swinging with Mega Man 11 made me wish that I played it sooner than I did. If it couldn’t be inferred from how many times I’ve brought up Mega Man in this column, even unprompted, I absolutely adore the Mega Man series. However, even with that, I definitely think that Mega Man 11 would make a solid entry title for those who are uninitiated with platformers, run n’ guns, and the like, because you can buy upgrades that effectively make the game easier, while those who want a challenge can limit their use of the Gear system to make it harder. More options is always nice for accessibility, and playing Mega Man 11 makes me hopeful for the next Mega Man title that will eventually crest beyond the horizon.
Of course, getting excited for Capcom’s next game when I have such a ludicrous backlog is already an issue and I shouldn’t be getting ahead of myself. There are so many games to play, and so little time, but do come back in a couple weeks when I find another couple games from the time capsule that is my backlog to share with you all. Until then, I slink back into the snowy abyss that is my house with a sloped driveway, where I’ve been needing to go to the store for toilet paper for two days but have been unable to make it up the hill. Thankfully, games used to come with manuals- do with this information what you will.