Final Fantasy 9 has some of the greatest villains in the entire series, if not all JRPGs. It gives you a bunch of loveable misfits from all walks of life to care about and adore, and then pits them against the most unhinged collection of well-written, memorable baddies you ever did see. Kuja is a flamboyant megalomaniac, Zorn and Thorn are the weirdest little twins with the catchiest theme tune in existence, and then you have Beatrix.
When you first meet Beatrix, she doesn’t seem overtly evil in the way that the neglectful Queen Brahne does. She plays the professional, well-regarded, aloof foil to Steiner’s idiosyncratic brand of bumbling, duteous knighthood. The first encounter with Beatrix smacks of a schlocky workplace drama, with Steiner and his Knights of Pluto playing the underdog to Beatrix and her cadre of soldiers, but this aspect quickly falls to the wayside, and at the end of the first disc, we’re shown a whole new side to the iconic general.
When Freya spies Beatrix at the end of the first disc in Burmecia, she instantly calls her the “cold-blooded knight who knows no mercy” and boy, is this an accurate testament to Beatrix’s approach to combat. In the process of saving a brave-yet-reckless Burmecian from certain death, you get to feel firsthand the wrath of Alexandria’s general in an unwinnable battle set to a stunning music track. Boss battles normally end with a triumphant crescendo, but here all you can do is try to stay alive amidst an onslaught of attacks that toy with you as much as devastate.
You cannot win. No matter what you do, no matter how many Phoenix Downs you’ve stocked up, you’re destined to lose. Young me tried everything – grinding, reloading, even manipulating everyone’s trance bars to unleash my party’s full might at once. If you deal enough damage, Beatrix just cuts the battle short with a party-rending Stock Break. She’s up against an angel of death, a Burmecian Dragon Knight, and the prototype perfect magic soldier (and possibly a goofy gourmand), and she obliterates them all. Thus, Final Fantasy 9 sets up a great moment: getting to defeat the monster who destroyed you once you’re a bit stronger.
This moment never comes. You fight Beatrix two more times, and it goes the same way – you lose. What I love about these moments is that the stakes are so incredibly high – in the second encounter, you’re trying to prevent the total destruction of Cleyra, the last home for the ratfolk, and in the third, it’s the life of Dagger herself that you’re fighting to protect.
All three fights are in vain, and this ties in so neatly with one of Final Fantasy 9’s biggest themes – inevitability. Usually, this relates to the inevitability of death – Kuja’s motivation is his own mortality, there’s an extended sequence about the Black Mages discovering they have expiry dates, and Zidane is a being constructed to facilitate death on a global scale. The fights against Beatrix, however, underline the inevitability of things being out of your hands. You cannot put Brahne down in Burmecia, you cannot save the Cleyrans, and Beatrix is a foe so powerful that your only chance of success is to convince her with words. Fate is a more powerful force than any army, and Beatrix underlines that prophecy with the utmost fatality.
This is why I love getting battered by Beatrix. It’s not a kink thing, I just love how she’s used by the narrative to put some flair on the game’s more overt themes. The fact that she ends up joining your side and then resolving that foreshadowed workplace drama by shacking up with Steiner in the most typical ‘sitcom’ resolution possible certainly helps. Final Fantasy 9 is full to the brim with standout moments, but the futile battles against Beatrix are the cherries on top.
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