Name: Balthier (Ffamran mied Bunansa)
Japanese name: バルフレア 『ファムラン・ミド・ブナンザ』 (Balflear)
Height: 6’0” (183 cm)
Seiyuu: Hiroaki Hirata
Voice Actor: Gideon Emery
A dashing sky pirate
He would describe himself as a noble thief, stealing only from those who deserve it. He goes where he pleases, swearing fealty to no one. While roaming the skies of Ivalice with Fran, his viera partner, he still makes time to charm the ladies with his silver tongue and put wrongs to right — grinning all the while.
A dashing sky pirate, Balthier first appears on the scene in Rabanastre’s palace treasury with his partner in crime, Fran, with the intent of making off with a piece of magicite. The problem, of course, is that someone’s already gone and taken it, and this simple fact lands Balthier in a world of trouble. Not that that’s a problem for him — as he’s quick to tell anyone who’ll listen, he’s the hero of this little story.
It’s hard to talk about Balthier’s role in the plot of the game because for the most part, he’s only there because the other characters require his services. Vaan needs an airship to get to Bhujerba when Penelo gets captured, so he hires Balthier. When Ashe needs to make a quick escape from Ondore, she gets Balthier to “steal” her. And when her promise of treasure for the theft turns out to not come up with anything, Balthier insists on further compensation for his continued assistance in the form of Ashe’s wedding ring.
The interesting thing is that Balthier does have a connection to the plot, it’s just that it isn’t revealed until a good ways in. There are a few hints before that — Balthier shows an interest in the nethicite, and has quite a knowledge of Archadian politics. When the party reaches the Phon Coast, Balthier reveals to Ashe that he’s the son of Doctor Cid, who once made him a Judge — but that he ran away when his father became obsessed with his research and went mad. It’s clear that he’s invested enough in Ashe’s quest to warn her away from blind revenge, having seen what such single-mindedness did to his father.
The party eventually reaches Dr. Cid’s laboratory in Archadia, but their meeting with Cid is brief and inconclusive (aside from a boss battle). Instead Dr. Cid directs them to Giruvegan so Ashe can meet the Occuria, and Balthier realizes that his father’s “Venat” is one of them, and that he was never really mad. At the Pharos, after Ashe has rejected the Occuria, Dr. Cid arrives to try and claim it himself; the party battles and defeats him. Afterwards, he expresses regret that Balthier left; he had wanted to share in the power with his son.
At the end of the game, after Vayne is defeated, his massive airship, the Sky Fortress Bahamut, is about to fall and crush Rabanstre. The rest of the party safely escapes to Balthier’s airship, the Strahl, but Balthier and Fran stay behind to fix the Bahamut. Balthier manages to get a message to the rest of the party, assuring them that the hero never dies, but Fran is injured in the repair. The ending FMV shows that the two of them did not reappear for the following year until one day they stole the Strahl back from Vaan, who had been taking care of it, and leave a note with Ashe’s wedding ring.
So Balthier is great. I mean, that’s a given. Almost everyone who plays Final Fantasy XII agrees that Balthier is great. I’m sure there are people out there who didn’t enjoy him, but hey. Not everyone has to like everything.
The thing I enjoy most about Balthier is that he’s entertaining on a meta level, what with him constantly telling you that he’s the hero of the piece and having the best one-liners in the game and certainly the most personality, but in no way is he actually the hero of the game. Yes, he gets a great moment of heroism at the end, and it cements his character arc and the personality that’s built up over the game, but as far as what he actually did in the plot? There’s nothing there. Balthier is only the hero because he told you he is, so that when he goes and does one thing heroic, you believe it. It’s all a persona and it works. It’s fascinating, and I love it.
Of course, I wish we knew more about his backstory — I mean, come on, you can’t just tell me he used to be a judge and then not go into any detail, come on. I also really wish we knew something (okay, anything) about how he met Fran. Something important to remember about Balthier is that he’s only 22, and that Dr. Cid knew Venat for six years. No matter how you slice it, Balthier can’t have been sky pirating for all that long. I’d love to know more about his backstory, but alas, no dice. (I also just want to know more about Fran in general.)
Anyway, Balthier’s great, but you already knew that.