I have a confession, and I'm embarrassed to admit this... but... I've never played the Awakening games. I've seen them. I've heard people rave about them, but I just never found the time to introduce myself to them. But, when I saw that the final chapter Awakening The Skyward Castle was released, I knew that it was time to break the ice and jump in cannonball style. And since it was now a complete story, I could enjoy the whole experience from beginning to end without stressing out about it!
I know. I'm weird. I can't help it. I'm like that with books too. I'm way too impatient. If I find a series of books that I like... I will devour them from beginning to end. And, if I have to wait a year between books, I get extremely irritated... I want to know what happens NOW! Not a year from now. And so, if I find a book I like and there are three books in the series with a fourth coming... I wait. I wait until all the books are written and the story has been completed, and then I drop in like a swarm of locusts and consume the books in a week-long binge.
So with Awakening... when I saw the final chapter had arrived. I went back to the beginning and immediately fell in love with every aspect of this series. I won't bore you with all the details of my journey since I know you really just want to hear if this new Skyward Castle is a worthy culmination of this amazing series... (I'll save my thoughts on the other games for another article…)
Well, I can safely say... rest easy my friends. Awakening: Skyward Castle is the perfect capstone to this beautiful story and amazing series.
The story begins where the last one left off. Princess Sophia is flying on the back of a winged unicorn, heading toward Skyward Castle, when suddenly an unnatural storm blows in and forces them from the sky. The unicorn is injured and can carry you no further, but you still have your loyal owl Ran as your companion and of course your trusty pocket dragon.
Seriously... how cute is that thing? I want a pocket dragon that purrs like a cat and can light things on fire after I feed it flowers! I love this thing! Who needs to find matches when all I need to do is pull this thing out! Anyhow... I obviously loved the creative solution of the dragon and was thrilled to see him back in my pocket where he belongs.
As Sophia makes her way ever closer to Skyward Castle, she encounters... humans! But something is terribly wrong. An evil shadow has cursed the land and set monsters loose to terrorize the locals. The village Sophia stumbles upon has been turned to stone by a basilisk, and now she must do what she can to free them. With no magic, she must rely on her wits alone to undo this terrible spell and continue on her journey to reach Skyward Castle and save her people.
You know… I can't quite put my finger on why I love these games so much… but I have a hunch. I am a huge fan of Miyazaki films and Studio Ghibli, and the Awakening series reminds me very much of some of his films, especially Spirited Away and Castle in the Sky.
Obviously the storyline is similar, but there's just something about his films… they often depict these hauntingly beautiful scenes where the light is filtering down through the trees or machinery, and you're consumed with this immense sense of solitude, like you're treading on grounds that no one has walked upon in centuries.
You get this same kind of feeling as you make your way through the artwork and graphics in the Awakening series. The scenes are so beautiful and yet you feel like you're disrupting some ancient silence as you continue your journey from the Dreamless Castle all the way to the Skyward Castle. Occasionally you meet characters, but oftentimes, they simply vanish after you've spoken to them, again leaving you with this sense of overwhelming seclusion.
That's a huge accomplishment in a game that it is able to immerse you that deeply in the story that you have these moments that can literally take your breath away. So maybe that's what makes the Awakening series simply unrivaled when it comes to evaluating the complete package.
The music also added to the effect. It was deeply woven into the story so that it wasn't overly intrusive, but rather complimented it with a stunning mixture of somber piano, haunting violins, and a lilting cadence of the flute.
Again, as you looked around at the crumbling structures surrounding you that have been consumed by time and nature, and add to the visuals this mournful score, you'll be quickly drenched in the overall gravity of the story and the obstacles our Sophia must overcome in order to finally find her place among her kind.
Overall, Awakening The Skyward Castle and the rest of the Awakening games simply shouldn't be missed. I encourage you, if you're new to this series like I was, to start from the beginning and enjoy the journey as the game truly reads like a cherished book and ends with a satisfying moment of completeness rather than leaving you dangling over a cliff once more.