Nintendo DS

Chat with the producer of Lifesigns: Surgical Unit

I’m partial to the emergence of medical drama games on the DS and Wii. I remember Life and Death for the PC (released over a decade ago!), but it was not nearly as immersive or challenging as Trauma Center: Under the Knife. Instead of facing foreign viral invaders, Spike’s Tendo Dokuta series is more on the realistic side. You’re an actual doctor without supernatural powers. There were rumors about Lifesigns heading to North America care of Dreamcatcher and I’m happy they are true. Jay Podlichuck, the producer of Lifesigns, is here to talk more about Lifesigns: Surgical Unit, the first title in the Tendo Dokuta series.

 

Siliconera: What is different between Lifesigns: Surgical Unit and Lifesigns: Hospital Affairs?

 

Jay Podilchuk (producer): The name!  Lifesigns: Surgical Unit is the North American title for the Lifesigns: Hospital Affairs.

 

Why did Dreamcatcher pick up Tendo Dokuta, developed by Spike?

 

The thing that really synched the project for us was the rapidly growing popularity of Anime style cartoons and comics in North America.  It seems every other game or TV show these days is attempting to copy this style, so when we where presented the opportunity to bring an authentic Anime title to the North American market it was too much to resist!  There is just something really appealing about a smart storyline that addresses real issues; which in my opinion is the strongest aspect of the art form. 

 

Can you tell us a little bit about the doctor and the story in the game?

 

Dokuta Tendo, Tendo Dokuta, or Doctor Tendo as we like to call him, is the new intern on staff at a bustling metropolitan hospital.  He is basically your typical protégé heart throb; there to save lives and drive all the young nurses crazy! 

 

Without giving the story away, I can tell you that he has a lot to live up to as a doctor and some mighty big shoes to fill.  As an intern, Tendo quickly realizes that there is a lot more to do with practicing medicine than he could ever learn from a medical book.  But he is up to the challenge and has some help along the way.

 

How do you perform surgery in Lifesigns?

 

The medical simulation aspects of game play in Lifesigns is threefold.  The player is expected to interact with patients, exercising a little bedside manner prior to starting the diagnosis.  This is followed by a series of symptoms and similar information that precedes a more hands on diagnosis stage.  Once the symptoms have been correctly determined and the affliction identified, surgery mode starts and the player uses the stylus to perform various tasks associated with surgery such as cutting, swabbing and stitching. 

 

Lifesigns is probably going to be compared to the other major medical drama game, Trauma Center: Under the Knife. What makes Lifesigns stand out compared to Trauma Center?

 

You can’t possibly imagine how many times I have answered this question over the last couple of months! 

 

You are definitely on track about the in depth diagnosis and examinations.  Both aspects of game play are much more robust in comparison to TC.  But, I would have to say that the most noticeable difference between the games is the storyline and adventure aspect of Lifesigns.  Each mission you are presented with is tied together seamlessly by a great story which adds context to the operations you perform and people you interact with.  Lifesigns really bridges the gap between being a medical simulation style game like TC and full on interactive adventure title… which is something we know a little about ;). 

 

What were some of the difficulties when you were localizing Lifesigns?

 

3 Words… Hand Mirror Heikichi!

 

I think the biggest challenge without a doubt has been the sheer scope of the project.  We are accustomed to large localization kits given that an extensive section of our catalogue is devoted to Adventure titles.  But this is the largest DS title we have ever worked on of this nature. 

 

The branching story makes the QA and content passes long, as does attempting to make the culturally specific content fit into the shared reality of the people we are targeting.  The trick is maintaining a balance between keeping enough of the anime charm and tailoring the content and story to be relevant to North American gamers. 

 

When are we going to see the two Lifesigns games appear in stores? (editor’s note: Corrected since there is only one announced Lifesigns game.)

 

Lifesigns: Surgical Unit is due to appear in stores this summer. 

 

Something to note is that the Lifesigns games came out at the beginning of the DS’ lifecycle. Is it too late to release them?

 

Given the continued dominance of the Nintendo hand held platforms it is almost never too late to release titles for those systems!  I think the only reason that the series has not seen a North American shelf yet is because most publishers could not appreciate what the game was.  This probably had a lot to do with amount of Japanese dialogue and the elaborate story line.

 

I remember sitting at home with a rough walkthrough I had found someplace online and the Japanese retail game trying to make heads or tales out of what I was doing and to be honest, there where many times where the frustration almost got the best of me.  I hate to imagine what gaming treasures have been lost for the North American market on account of similar obstacles!  We are just really happy to have been a part of this one. 

 

Spike stopped making Tendo Dokuta games after the second. Does Dreamcatcher have plans to continue the series beyond the first two titles?

 

I would imagine that this would largely be dependent on the success or reception of the title in the North American market.  DreamCatcher is taking a chance by bringing something as unique to an audience that the original game concept was not intended for.  At this point anything more would be pure speculation on my part… I suppose this would depend on how many copies you are planning to buy. ;)

 

I guess I was a little too excited when I saw Gamefly list two Lifesigns titles, Dreamcatcher is only bringing out the first one. Since they have a relationship with Spike there is a fair chance that the second game might come out if the first one is a hit. So now that you know about Lifesigns: Surgical Unit what are your thoughts?

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