IGN Review of Trauma Center: New Blood
During the Wii launch nearly a year ago, publisher Atlus brought one of its larger Nintendo titles to the table with Trauma Center: Second Opinion. Essentially a remake of the DS version, Trauma Center took the stylus-based gameplay of the DS debut title and reformed it for Wii, adding in full IR control, updated graphics, but retaining the same basic missions and characters that players experienced before on the dual screen format. Regardless of its "Wii-make" nature, the game was still a huge hit, reviewed by many critics extremely favorably, and instantly achieving the same cult classic status that its DS counterpart did back in October of 2005. Now releasing one day after its one year anniversary on Wii, Trauma Center again comes to Nintendo's unique console, and again it sets standards for engaging, entertaining Wii gameplay.
While Second Opinion was based entirely on the original game's story and characters, New Blood brings just that to the Trauma Center world: New Blood. The game hosts all new characters, an entirely different plot, another crazed sci-fi based disease - known as Stigma - and even more intense procedures. As far as presentation, gameplay, and flow, New Blood is nearly identical to what Second Opinion brought to the table (though it has been improved in some areas as well). Essentially what you're getting is the same Trauma Center world, this time with a whole new experience.
New Blood follows two doctors this time, including the male surgeon Markus Vaughn, and female Valerie Blaylock. The story opens with the team working in Alaska with a remote hospital in a tiny ski town, and from there opens up in to a much larger drama. Each doctor is equipped with a different "Healing Touch" ability - which is essentially a one-time use special move in the surgical world - and each are playable during every chapter of the game. Essentially you're getting the same mission each time, but with a different move at your disposal. Each mission will also end with a rank based on difficulty - easy, medium, and hard - and doctor, as well as full co-op support, for a total of nine ranks per challenge. Right off the bat New Blood offers more ranking and replay value than its predecessors.
Anyone that played the previous Trauma Center will fall back into their old habits immediately, as the core gameplay goes unchanged - and for good reason. Select the tool you need with the nunchuk controller, and use either A, B, or a combination of both to pull off the intended action with the Wii IR as your guide. Everything is done in an arcade-like style, so you won't actually be seeing blood or grotesque organs, but instead be working in an anime-inspired world where high scores are determined by a quick and steady hand, as well as a "do the right thing" combo system. The idea may be mature, as you'll be treating real-world health problems and have all the stress and intensity that comes with the actual operation and bedside manor (the game is heavy on story and drama), but it stays light enough to always feel like a true game too.
Second Opinion did a lot of things right in its first attempt, but there were some issues, and thankfully many of them have been changed. The game now runs in 16:9 widescreen in addition to 480p display, there are more backdrops during story telling, and far more VO, as every character has a specific voice actor and tons of recorded lines. You'll still find that the overall story presentation is very basic though, as characters will slide on-screen, remain static as the VO is read, and then fade out to make room for the next sliding piece of art. You won't get any FMV work or multiple characters on-screen for dialogue, so the actual storytelling pieces feel like they're basically a prettier display for the same DS style. Some of the VO is done extremely well, while other minor characters are a bit less engaging overall. Still, a huge step over last year's extremely basic presentation.
As far as operations go, you'll be using many of the same tools over again, but also have new aspects worked in. Two Healing Touch abilities means you'll need to use the right doctor in the right situation - Vaughn slows down time with his, while Blaylock stops all damage to the patient with her touch - but the core tools remain unchanged. What you will see more of, however, are context-sensitive actions based on specific situations. Without spoiling too much we've needed to perform multi-step skin graphs for burn victims, worked a child's heart back to life by hand (no defibrillator for the younger patients), and replaced/repaired pacemakers using only our surgical tools. All in all there's more moment-to-moment improv, more multi-step procedures, and a higher level of difficulty. We were worried New Blood would feel like a mission pack added on to the original game, but that isn't the case, as there's far more to see and do this time around.
A few gameplay issues get in the way, but it won't be the difference between and excellent experience or a lacking one; just minor annoyances. Oftentimes you'll have mission aspects that aren't exactly laid out for you, so you'll spend your first (and maybe second, and third) attempt just getting to know the task at hand, only then being able to go back and complete it fresh from the start. Another gripe with the first Wii version returns as well, centering around the less tactile feel of the Wii IR vs. the actual touch-based actions of the stylus. Drawing a line with a pencil is simple enough, but doing that same line with a laser pointer isn't always as easy, and that still translates in New Blood's control. Still, after a bit of practice the slightly less intuitive IR "touch" works fine, and becomes more of a minor annoyance than anything else. Perhaps some crazy hybrid DS mode in the next Trauma Center (or direct connectivity between an all-new DS and Wii game) could utilize the feeling of actual stylus-to-screen contact that Trauma Center benefits from.
Also included this time around is an impressive co-op mode, which absolutely makes the experience as far as we're concerned. Two players can grab a pair of controllers, and work with full co-op on any mission or challenge in the game. It'll take a ton of coordination and speed to rank highly in this mode, and it really improves the overall entertainment value of New Blood. Team that with the ability to assign Miis to each character and upload your scores onto the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, and there's limitless replay value for high score challenges. We expect to see some impressive videos of expert doctors doing what they do best once the game releases.
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