You even start XIII-2 in a city..how are cities gone? lol. Guessing you never touched XIII-2 which I suppose makes sense.
"Depth of story is gone."
FFI - Bad guy on the loose
FFII - empire etc etc
FFIII - vanguard cloud etc etc
FFIV - empire, brainwashed brother etc etc.
FFV - vanguard tree etc etc
FFVI - vanguard court jester etc etc.
FFVII - mama's boy seeking the promised land finds out said mama is an alien and not his real mother and lead character has memories of another as he's **** well a puppet.
FFVIII - there's no explaining this.
FFIX - vanguard elephant lady to unconfirmed gender antaganist that leads to fighting for all life..
FFX - listen to my story.
FFXI - mix
FFX-2 - continuing said listen to my story
FFXII - star wars
FFXIII - intertwined storylines that you had to read, rather than been shown.
FFXIII-2 - vanguard time traveller.
FF Spinoffs - Respective battle system changes.
So realistically, none of the FF games have had depth to their storylines, when you're young you didn't understand sh*t, if you've played em as an adult or early adult you understood them and realized they were just any other storyline that's been done before in various other media.
On early consoles, having a story of any kind was very rare. I mean, if you're going to trash a game's storyline, you should compare it to the other games available in its day. FF4 might not have been the most epic tale ever compared to what you'd see in a book or a movie, but on an SNES, you'd be hard pressed to find anything comparable in 1991.
FF6 was full of cliches, full of Star Wars references (you rebel scum!), but that was part of its sense of levity in the face of an otherwise bleak end-of-the-world game. But nearly each of the main characters have their own backstory, and their own demons to vanquish within the game. And ending the game involves helping them set those things to right, or leaving them to their fate and winning with a skeleton crew. You had choices and slightly different endings depending on what you chose. That's more of what a video game story can give you that other media cannot.
And FF7 was a very daring tale. Saving your terrorist, childhood girlfriend from the clutches of the local pimp by having your recent love interest, who's the last of an ancient race, help you dress like a girl so you can break into his facilities is not something that happens in every story. FF7 is also the one story that will almost break you if you don't know what's coming, and you'll love it all the more for it.
In any case, as far as raising the bar in video game stories is concerned, it's as high as it is in part because Square helped push it that high. Interactive stories like this have their own challenges in terms of cost and an exponential number of outcomes depending on your choices that books and movies don't have. You won't find many video games (if any) with that as deep a story as fine literature, but that's not what this media was meant for. Video games make you a part of a story where your choices affect the outcome, and believe it or not, this concept is still in its infancy. Edited, Feb 12th 2012 6:52pm by Xoie