Many video game characters have died at my hand over the years, but never have I felt as bad about it as when I play a Trauma Center game. Not only do I lose a poor, innocent patient due to my clumsy attempts at surgery, but then the weak-willed doctors at my command fold like Dr. Folder of the Folding Commandos, quitting their professions forever and going into seclusion, never to know the love of another human being. This makes me feel bad. What makes me feel good, however, is the first real console version of Trauma Center on the Wii (Second Opinion was a port, so it doesn't count), Trauma Center: New Blood. Atlus has brought in some fresh new doctors, performed some much-needed cosmetic surgery (which more than likely involved removing tumors), and delivered a deep and enjoyable way to develop your god complex.You've Got the Touch
The core fundamental remain the same as Trauma Center: Second Opinion, one of the Wii's many launch titles. You save patient's lives using a blend of future medicine and vile necromancy. The two main characters, Markus Vaughn and Valerie Blaylock, both have got the touch. The power, if you will. When all hell's breaking loose they'll be up to their armpits in entrails, carving pentagrams on their patients to bend the laws of physics to their very whim. Mark's dark ritual slows time, while Val basically makes the patient invulnerable for a period of time while you fumble about with your scalpel. Taking place a decade after the first game, New Blood starts off with the main characters staffing a hospital in Alaska, but after Val masters the healing touch and Markus discovers that an all-new deadly disease called Stigma has become active, the action moves to the Los Angeles-based Concordia Medical Institute, where things have gone downhill. For those of you drawn to the science soap opera from the original games, fear not; there is plenty of trademark Trauma Center drama to be had by all. You'll get to choose which doctor you want to play during most levels, though a few dictate your choice when the story necessitates it. Once you've opened up a procedure in the story mode you can go back through it on any of three difficulty levels, or try your and a friend's hand in the most significant addition to the series, co-op multiplayer. Multiplayer gives both players control of all the tools of the trade. It can be as one player keep the patient stabilized while the other does their magic, or players pooling their strengths to aim for that perfect score. Speaking of scores, they can be uploaded via Nintendo Wi-Fi to see where you rank on the leaderboards for each particular level and difficulty, so you can kick back and brag after a job well done, just like real doctors!
The Same, Only Better
When you get right down to it, not too much has changed in Trauma Center: New Blood. Aside from a few new game mechanics and the whole new-yet familiar storyline, what they've done is taken a game that worked just fine as a port and added a level of polish more suited to the console experience. The game looks lovely in 480p, painting the whole wide screen television with alternating beautiful, expressive still characters and backdrops with stylized internal organs. As an aside, I am sure glad the internals are stylized. Could you imagine what a 360 or PS3 developer would do given free reign to create a surgery game? We'd wind up with a sandbox cadaver game. Grand Theft Aorta. The Polyphony Digital guys would be casing the morgue, sticking microphones in places microphones should never be. Ugh.
Back to the presentation! New Blood sports music from Kenichi Tsuchiya, who has worked on many of my favourite Megaten games, so hearing the opening them brought a real smile to my face. The opening of the game itself seems like a bit of a homage to the TV series House, which is no surprise considering characters from that show turned up as character names in the original Trauma Center. They've even manage to wrangle up a particularly fine voice over cast - normally an afterthought in games like these.
A Little Malpractice
My only real gripe with Trauma Center: New Blood is the same grip I had with the first game in the series for the Wii. It isn't nearly as easy to perform delicate operations using the Wiimote as it is with the DS stylus. It takes a pretty steady hand, and there were several times that were I a real doctor, my patient would have been slashed and burned into meat sauce. We're talking the mall floor at the end of Dawn of the Dead here. Not pretty. I suppose it can't really be helped in this situation. I did find that using a wrist rest with my arm on the coffee table provided a great deal of stability to my otherwise shaky appendage.
Did I just protip?
Okay, Close Him Up
Trauma Center: New Blood is exactly the type of game the Wii was created for. It's action you can't find anywhere else, with gameplay that makes the graphics and glitz of the more powerful consoles a non-issue. It takes a steady hand, but then so did Operation, the board game predecessor of the series. In fact, it's almost just like that, only instead of making a guy's nose light up bright red you ruin countless people's lives. No pressure.