Game: The Mysteries of Ranko Togawa: Murder on the Marine Express
Genre: Visual Novel, Mystery, Indie
System: Steam (also on Mac & Android)
Developers | Publishers: 1564 Studios
Controller Support: No
Price: US £4.99 | UK £3.99 | EU € 3,99
Release Date: July 30th, 2021
Review code used, with many thanks to 1564 Studio
The Mysteries of Ranko Togawa: Murder on the Marine Express is a short murder mystery visual novel from 1564 Studio. This visual novel is intended to be the first in a series of mystery novels starring a student named Ranko Togawa.
St. Joachim Academy
St. Joachim Academy for elite girls has booked the new Marine Express submarine train on the ocean floor. This particular train runs from the USA coast to Japan. The trip seems like the perfect opportunity to enjoy the beautiful underwater views of the passing friendly shark and fish. Their teachers are hoping their students might just learn a little about marine biology too.
Everyone on the Marine Express is having a grand time. That is until Clarissa, one of the students finds the body of Mr Shepard, one of the teachers murdered in his room. Ranko Togawa, a student onboard the train, decides she is the person to solve this terrible murder and sets out to find the culprit.
Typical High School Setting
The story of Murder on the Marine Express is set on a submarine train, but it may as well have been based in a high school. The cast of characters is a typical bunch of high school kids. There is Ranko (main character) and her best friend Astrid. Haifaa who is obsessed with Ninjas, and a group of bully girls lead by Catherine, called the Wildcats.
Each of these school girl characters fit into the stereotypes of athletic jock, the shy girl, the gang of bullies. There are lots of side characters in Marine Express, and they are a diverse cast of characters from different parts of the world.
Marine Express Submarine
You play the game as Ranko, who is rather, bad-tempered, quick to judge, and thinks she knows everything (more on that later). Her best friend Astrid is the opposite of Ranko and there is humour in the banter between the two girls throughout the game. On the other hand, Ranko has run-ins with the bully girls the Wildcats which results in the usual school girl insults being traded between them. It certainly is a cast full of quirky characters.
Plenty of Characters
There are quite a lot of characters in Murder on the Marine Express. All are introduced in a short space of time after you start the game. It can be a bit hectic to keep track of all the characters. But Ranko’s phone, which is also the menu, includes profiles for every major character. Her phone will also keep you updated at important points in the story in the chat feature. The chat feature shows new conversations and gives a few more details of the characters and their interactions with each other.
The overall story is intriguing in this 2-4 hour visual novel. With plenty of twists and turns in the plot as a decent murder story should have. I did find the ending to the mystery to be satisfying. However, if you are paying attention to the game the ending might not come as much of a surprise.
Visuals and Sound
As you can see from the pictures The Mysteries of Ranko Togawa: Murder on the Marine Express has a retro pixel look about it. I quite like how the game looks, though some of the drawings for the characters expressions are a little overexaggerated and look quite scary at times. Music is also retro with an electronic sound, which matches the look of the game well.
A Few Niggles
I had a few niggles with this game. There is one part of the game I couldn’t get my head around. Since Ranko is still at school, I would say she is maybe 15, who on earth in their right mind would let an inexperienced school girl investigate a murder. There are plenty of teachers (adults) on the train, why isn’t one of them investigating the murder before the professionals arrive. In fact in one part of the story just after the murder takes place, Ranko breaks into the room it took place in to investigate. Upon finding out that Ranko has done this and disturbed the evidence, her Teacher calmly says don’t do it again! That broke the storyline for me as the storyline went way off down the unbelievable route for me.
Ranko is not the most lovable character either, in fact, I found her to be rather obnoxious and I didn’t gel with her at all and the way she comes across in the game. Meanwhile, Astrid is the real star of the game, full of energy and has nicer character traits than Ranko does.
The translation of the text to English could do with a lot of editing on it. As there are quite a few grammatical errors in the game. According to the games Steam page, the text is being edited and a new update with improved grammar has been released for the game. Before I started writing this review I was going to check the update out. However, every time I press play, I receive a message saying “an error occurred while updating”. So checking if the text is any better will have to wait.
The Mysteries of Ranko Togawa: Murder on the Marine Express is an enjoyable visual novel that still needs some more development. Obviously, the developers of 1564 Studios are aware of what the game needs since they are continuing to update it, which is great to see. If you are interested in solving the Murder on the Marine Express mystery check out the demo available on The Mysteries of Ranko Togawa: Murder on the Marine Express Steam page.
Final Verdict: I Like It