Hoo boy. New Blood. After 72 hours of playtime and getting an XS rank in all 98 missions, I think I'm qualified to review it. Or at least more qualified than some people who can't even pass the game with the lowest rank on easy. I'm looking at you, EGM.
I was pretty excited about this game. Why? Let's just say this review is being written by someone who thinks Second Opinion is the best damn game on the Wii. Forget Mario Galaxy. Forget Metroid Prime 3. Actually, I don't know why I even mentioned that piece of shit. Let's just leave it at Mario Galaxy since that game was, y'know, good.
But yes, that's right. I just alienated and possibly enraged 99.9% of the people reading this by placing Second Opinion higher than Mario Galaxy, and we're only just getting started. But you know what? Fuck you. I'm not wrong, the rest of the planet is.
But I digress. These reviews aren't meant to be a surprise so let's cut to the chase: I was disappointed by New Blood. It seems disappointment is a growing trend with sequels these days. I would describe the trend's growth as fucking astronomic. But like a naïve idiot, I never saw it coming until it punched me in the face. Instead, I fully expected it to rock. I mean, all they had to do was lift the gameplay right out of Second Opinion and just make some more missions, right? What could possibly go wrong? It seems years of playing refuse like Devil May Cry 2, Xenosaga II and Super Paper Mario has taught me nothing.
First off, let me say that I immediately started playing the game on hard mode and with the full intention of XS ranking every single mission. Because that's really the only way to play Trauma Center if you don't want a mere diversion that'll only last you for a scant five hours. That's the main reason why most people never realize how brilliant Second Opinion is: the only way to truly appreciate it is to commit yourself to mastering its intense challenges. Most people will be content to simply surf through it, possibly in a single sitting, and then dismiss it as a quirky, too short "medical simulator". Hell, even Wikipedia defines New Blood's genre as medical simulation. What a load of bullshit. Seriously, is that even a real genre or did they make that shit up specifically for this game? What's next, labeling Ace Attorney as fucking law simulation? Even if you group this so-called "medical simulation" as a subset of the already established simulation genre, it's still wrongly applied. Let me paste wikipedia's own definition of simulation:
"Simulation games aim to simulate an experience, such as flying an aircraft or operating a business, as realistically as practically possible, taking into account physics and other real-world limitations."
So they're saying Trauma Center simulates a surgery as realistically as possible and takes into account physics and real world limitations? HAHAHAHAHA! Clearly these people never played the game. Not even the general feel of the game is like a real surgery. It has more in common with light gun games than real surgery. Trauma Center is an action game, pure and simple. Just because you're not punching people in the face doesn't mean it's not action. Apparently this is another area in which the entire planet is wrong. Good thing I'm here to enlighten all of you peasants.
Moving back on topic, it's only by mastering Second Opinion that you realize the sheer brilliance of the gameplay, the near perfection of its design, in that mastering missions is almost maddeningly difficult, and yet it never feels unfair. It gives the sense that the designers lovingly tested every mission and made sure that everything worked flawlessly.
New Blood takes this perfect design and shits all over it. Probably while laughing and taunting Trauma Center's loving fans. Hell, probably even while flipping them off. First off, let me say that Second Opinion was intensely hard (remember that when I mention difficulty, I am always referring to XS ranking all of the missions). But New Blood's difficulty is inhumane. It is absolutely sadistic. It crosses the line. But the true problem is that it does away with fairness. Not only that, but the difficulty suffers from severe imbalance. The hardest missions will be ones near the start, surpassing even the extreme mode missions in difficulty. Oh, did I say they surpassed them in difficulty? Silly me. I meant they surpass them in bullshit. Somewhere down the line, it was some asshole's brilliant idea to make a mission that could only be XS ranked by getting lucky. No longer would the burden be placed on the player's skill, but on dumb luck of the draw.
Seriously, did they put the job of designing the mission to the illegal immigrant janitor because they could pay him an indecent sorry excuse for a wage or were they stoned out of their fucking minds when they designed it? Making something that can only be done by getting lucky is probably the worst possible game design decision you can make. Unless your game is like. Monopoly or something. But in the idiotic decisions scale, It's right up there with self-insertion in fan fiction. That's right, it's that bad. Except fan fiction authors are dumb teenagers who haven't been around very long and don't know any better, so at least they have some excuse. These guys are professional game designers who already executed the last game flawlessly. Where's your excuse, you sons of bitches? What, was Second Opinion a fluke? Is that it?
New Blood introduces two main characters for you to use. While Second Opinion also had two characters you used, the second one was only useable in a scant few missions, and even then was identical to the other character. However, the second character in New Blood, Valerie Blaylock (more like Valerie GAYlock, am I right guys? Yeah, I'm so witty. You can write that one down for posterity. Maybe a little prosperity.) is actually a gimped character that makes every single mission much harder, and worse, feels like the designers never even bothered to test missions with her. The problem is that all of the missions in the mission select screen show your ranking with BOTH characters, meaning that if you're a completionist idiot, you must XS every mission with both characters. And it is when you attempt to XS rank missions with Valerie that the game shows its ugly side. People who have tried to XS rank all the missions will instantly know which mission I was referring to previously. Words cannot accurately describe the feelings of intense rage and futility at trying to XS a mission which can only be done by getting lucky. Trust me on this one, when you get to this mission, you will hate this game. As I mentioned at the start of the article, I did XS every single mission, including that one. However, the feeling upon managing it wasn't one of satisfaction and accomplishment so much as of never wanting to go through shit like that again. Seriously, only masochistic idiots could possibly endure the obscene amounts of bullshit this game throws at you. Anyone else with a semblance of self respect wouldn't bother.
Still, the game isn't all bad. The core gameplay is still there, and it's still good, when you're doing missions that are actually fair (the extreme missions are the best example). Like Second Opinion, I like the art. The music is alright, although not really up to SO's standards. Incidentally, the coolest songs are the ones lifted off of Second Opinion. One thing that is on par with it is the intro, both the theme and the sequence. I watched it every time I turned the game on. Since I liked the intro theme, I expected the final boss to have an awesome remix of the intro theme like when you fight the mutated Savato in Second Opinion, but the final boss theme in New Blood is merely nice.
Overall, I liked the characters. The first main character, Markus, is pretty cool. I'm not sure if I like him more or less than Derek Stiles in SO, which is a good thing. The other main character, Valerie, however, I don't really like. In fact, I think she's kind of annoying. Maybe I'm biased since her missions are the sole reason the game is so frustrating, but she's definitely no Naomi Kimishima. I also like the nurse, Elena Salazar. She's kind of cute. Not as cute as Angie "ultimate cuteness" Thompson in SO, but yeah. She does have a better personality than Angie though. And by better personality I mean isn't a complete bitch. God I hate that Angie bitch. Elena's best asset, though, is that she has Karen Strassman's beautiful voice. Hell yeah, I could listen to her talk nonsense in Elena's voice all day.
Oh yeah, I didn't mention this game now has full voice acting, did I? Well, it's done quite well. We've got some great voice actors here. I smiled upon starting the game and hearing Michael McConnohie as the narrator. Derek Stephen Prince, who is great as well, is here too. The ever popular Yuri Lowenthal is back too. After being subjected to the train wreck that is the voice acting in Fire Emblem Path of Radiance, it's refreshing to listen to actors who aren't bums picked off the street.
In conclusion, this game could have been just as awesome as Second Opinion if that goddamn illegal immigrant janitor hadn't fucked it up. As it is, it's hard for me to recommend it looking back at how much grief and frustration it caused me, since you have to be a completionist to appreciate Trauma Center but if you are, you will learn to hate New Blood for its bad design choices. If, unlike me, you have enough self respect to only XS rank the missions with Markus and not bat an eye at the glaring Valerie rank holes in your mission select screen, go ahead and buy it. It's not a bad game. But if you can't... I think you're better off saving yourself the pain and just buying Second Opinion a second time. Y'know, to send a message.
Final Verdict: C-
Final Playtime: 72 hours
What could have been the successor to the best game on the Wii, reduced to this. It almost brings a tear to my eye. I intend to replay Second Opinion someday. New Blood, I only intend to throw in a fire.