Disclaimer: I do not own this game or series.
This series is a rather interesting one. Unlike the past series I’ve done where I’m just developing my personal development blogs through Progress Reports or announcements, I will be looking up on some showcase games that you may or may not have heard about, give my thoughts on the subject and bring you some knowledge about the game. This is less a review or a critical analysis and more so a perspective of what I think the game is about, how do they hold up and unpack as much of the aspects of the game from my bird’s eye viewpoint. And as such, this showcase may not be interesting or engaging to those who are critical and nitpick on every little minor detail. You may or may not disagree with me however you like on this game, but keep it reasonable.
So this game is among my childhood games during the DS era. I enjoyed this game for what it is. So much so that I would actually replay the game about 4 times. It’s not perfect by any means and its by no means good or great comparing to masterpiece visual novels or doctor-based operation games, but it’s definitely one of my childhood games I played and something that is kept close to my heart. I don’t remember the plot itself completely, but I know the basics. Keep in mind that I will probably spoil the game at some of the more crucial parts. So avoid reading if you wish to continue. Maybe the reason why I liked it so much is because of reception saying that it’s a hybrid of Phoenix Wright and Trauma Center, two games that I adore as well during childhood. And when I realized this game is created by Spike, whom later developed Spike Chunsoft, who developed the Danganronpa series, which I had mixed-positive perspective on, I am actually liking this company as early as back then and I appreciate that.
Lifesigns: Surgical Unit
The japanese name for this is Kenshūi Tendō Dokuta 2: Inochi no Tenbin or its english direct translation, Resident Doctor Tendo 2: The Scales of Life. It is apparently a sequel to the first game which I don’t think was translated so I wasn’t really sure on that. Though you don’t really need to play it to know the story of this game as the gists of it would be explained via exposition dump and character backstory, you would probably be left out on some of the more finer details pertaining to characters explaining how they get to where they are and why do they act that way in this game, which I did notice was quite odd playing it the 3rd time.
It is a tale of Tendo Dokuta, a man who works as a doctor in Seimei Medical University Hospital. The story is broken up into 5 chapters and each tale will follow him in first person, akin to that of a visual novel. The first two chapters will entail the story mostly in the Hospital. There’s drama going around alongside a new medical doctor coming in who is a newbie and a whole lot of circumstances surrounding characters and their past history. And some have bitter histories than you can imagine. It’s really hooking me in early on. Though the translations to English and how it was presented are mostly alright, some parts are left to be desired. Some of the text I’ve noticed can often times move at points past the limit and some are.. interesting to say the least.
The next 2 chapters follow Tendo and his now step sister Hikaru Sawai on a vacation trip adventure in the islands. Though it’s still has its flair and interesting setup with the island itself having its own issues and problems. There are a lot of circumstances in regards to the islands, the beliefs of the chief of the village and more drama ensues. It’s an interesting narrative in itself and the ghost stories during the night-time early sections in Chapter 3 is horrifying for me to play as a child. It was haunting to say the least for me.
There’s a lot of drama itself coming from the 4 chapters. But there is a strong drama vibe coming down in Chapter 5 and what I think is among the more heartwarming of the Chapters, with establishing characters reaching an epiphany or a revelation that push the drama factor to overdrive. I would say that the perverted old geezer who was around from as early as Chapter 1 has changed from douche to incredibly likeable here and his character development is shown as the wise old guy he is behind that perverse tendencies.
We also get development from main and side characters about their philosophies, though not all the characters get the limelight, when a character does, they bring out interesting situations which I find myself rather invested. The final conclusion leading up to a lot of doctor drama, hatred and resolving pasts. Though it’s not simply “convince them and they change their minds completely” kind of situation. They are more… realistic to say the least and its one of the things that strikes me out the most from this game. It doesn’t completely step outside the bounds of reality (except Chapter 4 and to some extent 5) with some liberties needing to take for characters to stand out and fulfill stereotypes and all that jazz. It really brings out drama in all aspects of the characters and their growth during the course of the game. It makes me feel something and I really appreciate that in games. It’s also interconnected with one another, making references and parts to different chapters alluding to a lot of situations where it may be predictable if you’re a drama fanatic and look at the signs of foreshadowing in the game but it’s also one of those ones that gives you enough fluff and comedy to spice up the whole thing in an interesting light.
Though that’s a lot of story jargon you had to read. What about gameplay? It’s mostly 55% visual novel, 20% minigames and 25% doctor stage levels for the most part. You had to go through a lot of layers of conversations, interactions with other characters and drama just to get to the nice juicy gameplay parts. The interactions can be done by moving around, talking to people and finding the right parts to progress through the game. Sometimes if you find a specific thing given to you at specific points, you unlock specific secret stuffs. Some actions, if you do it a specific way, will unlock a specific thing for Chapter 5 which you can use that item for getting the special “Get your girl partner” (or in “weeb” terms, the Waifu ending) ending (only 2 variations though, Hoshi and Aoshima). As for the hows, I’d let you guys find out for yourself. I’m not sure I remember either but it does have something to do with your surgery performances and meeting the correct requirements. Speaking of surgery..
During surgery sections, you’d be treated to different situations and you need to not fail it or do it quickly if you want to complete the operation successfully. If you play Trauma Center, you would be treated to nearly the same gameplay. Except this is actually more sensitive than Trauma Center. You have no way of healing yourself with exceptions of a few stage points and a defibrillator when your HP is 0, so ensuring you don’t screw up is key. I had a lot of issues early on getting to put the disinfection sections and do it quickly because it spreads out when you start rubbing it spreads around at points and you need to get to them WHILE remembering the L and R keys to make those points visible. Its one of the frustrations when you want to do well and earn bonus points on the game. And some gameplay sections can be tedious and worrisome, its tense and for the final chapter it’s more so obvious due to the nature of the game and the overall steps you had to take. It makes you take a lot of care and risk doing the game, making sure you don’t screw up. It can be frustrating and exhilarating for me to complete the game as it stands. Sewing, cutting and using the laser are given to you at specific points like stages instead of freely using them like Trauma Center did (so no spamming lasers and scalpels like everywhere to intentionally hurt a patient). Doing well is key as you would earn points as well for your performance and it is not easy reaching that perfect score unless you had good mobility and memorization because speed and precision is one of those things that you kind of need to “get gud” at this section of the game. There’s even an “EX” level (unlocked after, from what I know, beating the game and pay for points) for the challenged. I was really only good at some operations in those EX games since not only you have to work quick, you have to work REALLY good or a mistake could really hurt the HP bar lots. But I can’t say if it’s harder than Trauma Center.
Minigames are simply some interactive minigames that if you do well, will affect some lines in the game but doesn’t overall affect the narrative core plot. It’s just fun light fluff gameplay. Some of them are fun but some of the later ones can be frustrating since you’re fighting AI based characters in a game of Pong of all things. And difficulty is based off which girl you picked on a date in Chapter 5, so that’s “fun”. Fun being very subjective.
Music is a range of Ok to good. No orchestral masterpieces and its simple and refreshing. Its definitely bad if you were to compare them to that anyways but for what its worth, its alright. Nothing exemplary and nothing too eargratingly painful, at least for me anyways.
This game potentially looks at the dramatic aspects of doctor life with surgery mechanics that are often times left to be desired at some points. Its by no means a good game, I’d argue Phoenix Wright has better way of giving off the insanity of the situation while giving us better comedy and writing and Trauma Center can be more intensely challenging due to the more fictional elements of the game tweaking the mechanics and testing the players ability to a more grander scale. Though it is a light, refreshing tale for me to play and its something that I find most refreshing, encouraging you to try it out for yourself and give out your opinions whether its worse than my viewpoint or its probably one of your childhood nostalgia as well or it could interest you if you don’t know about this game.