Intergrade being the subtitle for the new Yuffie-focused Final Fantasy VII Remake DLC is, I think, a big sign of what’s to come.
The word “intergrade” is pretty specific in meaning. As a noun, it relates to one or several intermediate points in a process or evolution. For example, a caterpillar becomes a pupa and ends up a butterfly. The pupa stage would be the intergrade. An “assistant manager” is the intergrade on the way to being a manager.
You can see how that might apply to this DLC, as it looks to be a story that will help transition us between 2020’s Final Fantasy VII: Remake and the forthcoming (and yet-to-be-named) sequel. The adventures of Yuffie and her Wutai-compatriot, Sonon Kusakabe, will give us another perspective on what was happening in Midgar during the events of Remake, as well as probably introducing some key story elements that will prove relevant in the main sequel.
This is similar to the Miles Morales Playstation game that released with the Playstation 5. Morales serves as a middle-ground entry between the original main title Spider-Man (released in 2018) and the forthcoming Spider-Man 2.
But where “intergrade” gets interesting is in its verb-form. As a verb, it means “to merge gradually, one into another, as different species through evolution.” It’s often used in zoology, in the concepts of primary and secondary intergradation. This may feel a little out there for a second but bear with me.
In the Encyclopedia of Biodiversity, Pamela Soltis writes that primary intergradation is the “divergence of a population system into two species” with a middle species that links them. While secondary intergradation is the “hybridization” of species.
To put that in other terms. Primary intergradation is like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Extended Universe, as they’re two divergent species in the same population system (comic book movies). With the comic book movies of the 80s, 90s, 00s being the middle species that serves as the intergrade between them.
Whereas something like the Avenger movies are examples of secondary intergradation in the Marvel universe, as they’re a hybridization of a group of individual Marvel movies/storylines.
So what does this have to do with Final Fantasy VII: Remake?
A sign of things to come
Remake was initially thought to be what the title suggests: a distinct update of the original PS1 Final Fantasy VII game. Meaning that the original game and the remake are separate projects, each with their own continuity. Just like the 2005 King Kong movie shares zero continuity with any previous King Kong movie. They may have similar stories and plot points, but they aren’t connected.
But when you beat Remake, there are implications that the subtitle has another meaning: that the game’s villain, Sephiroth, is attempting to change the events of the original Final Fantasy VII. To remake the story so that he succeeds in his plot for power rather than falling to the blade of Cloud Strife. If this is true, then Remake is a sequel, rather than a reboot, as it’s built on the previous game’s continuity.
One of the big pieces of evidence for this theory is a final boss battle with the Whisper Harbinger. This boss summons three ghostly figures called Rubrum, Croceo, and Vindi. All three are references to the characters Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo from the 2005 Final Fantasy VII sequel movie, Advent Children. In-game, we’re told these ghostly figures are “from a future timeline that has manifested in the present day” and fight “to protect the future that gave shape to it.” As in, if the main characters continue on the road they’re going, they’ll change the events from the original continuity, meaning Advent Children never happens.
By the end of Remake, we’re made to feel a sense of an open world. But it’s more than the characters leaving the city of Midgar, it’s that the story itself is completely open to new directions. That the next game will not be beholden to the events of the original PS1 game. That the characters have, indeed, fought destiny and broken free of its clutches. Which is what Sephiroth wanted, as he’s no longer doomed to fail but will have another chance to destroy the world.
To further make this clear, Remake shows us what should be the final moments of Zack Fair’s life, his last stand against soldiers of Shinra. It’s one of the cornerstone moments of the original game’s story, as Zack’s death is what sets Cloud’s story in motion. Except Zack doesn’t die. Not this time. As our characters have changed their future, it seems they’ve also changed the past. The whole timeline has been rocked.
Now think back to intergradation. The Final Fantasy VII: Remake story focuses on breaking away from the original continuity and opening up completely new possibilities, good and bad, for the characters. This new story will be an example of primary intergradation, as it and any potential spin-offs will be its own “species” derived from the original PS1 story.
But in the Intergrade trailer, we also saw Weiss, a character from the 2006 spin-off game, Dirge of Cerberus. This seems to confirm suspicions fans have had that the Remake series will look to integrate other Final Fantasy VII properties (that were originally released under the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII name). Advent Children got included in Remake. Now Dirge of Cerberus will have aspects of its story in Intergrade. And the Remake ending’s emphasis on Zack had already created speculation the sequel will bring up aspects of the Zack-centered Crisis Core.
“And that’s an example of secondary intergradation?”
YES! Yes it is. It’s the hybridization that occurs, as distinct “species” get rolled into one thing. Or to go back to that verb-form: “to merge gradually, one into another.”
So this DLC chapter being called Intergrade seems to support the theory the Final Fantasy: Remake sequel will continue to meld the various Compilation properties together as the story movies forward in its own bold and unique way.