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Enter the “leading man”, as he so cleverly calls himself. Balthier is one of the main characters of Final Fantasy XII: Zodiac Age and makes his introduction fairly early in the story. What, however, is this seemingly simple pirate keeping close to his chest?
Final Fantasy XII vs Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
Before we dive into Balthier’s story, it’s worth noting that a few different versions of Final Fantasy XII have made their way to western audiences. While the story differences are minimal, the job system received a major overhaul.
Final Fantasy XII
Final Fantasy XII was first released in 2006 for the Playstation 2 console. It launched with a localized license board with all spells and skills present. While you can choose to go in any direction on the board, it becomes challenging to create the ideal build for each member of your team.
It wasn’t a bad system by any means, but Square-Enix didn’t wait long to revamp character builds in a new game.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age was a remastered re-release of the original game that didn’t reach the United States or Europe until 2017 for Playstation 4, Windows PCs, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch.
The Zodiac Age is based on the Japanese-only Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System released ten years prior. This game featured an entirely new job system with 12 unique boards for each profession, linked to zodiac constellations. The 12 classes created for the game are:
- Archer (Sagittarius)
- Black Mage (Capricorn)
- Foebreaker (Scorpio)
- Knight (Leo)
- Machinist (Gemini)
- Monk (Virgo)
- Shikari (Pisces)
- Red Battlemage (Cancer)
- Bushi (Aquarius)
- Time Battlemage (Libra)
- Uhlan (Taurus)
- White Mage (Aries)
As players choose a job for characters, that job’s skill tree is unlocked, and new skills become available as you progress through the chart.
In addition to jobs, The Zodiac Age saw significant updates to magicks, weapons, and armor that ended up populating job boards.
I’ve played both of these games through to completion. In my opinion, FFXII: The Zodiac Age has the most dynamic skill system and completely eclipses the lackluster model of the original release.
For this Balthier guide, I’ll be referring to the Zodiac Age’s job system whenever I talk about my favorite sky pirate Balthier.
Balthier At a Glance
At the time Final Fantasy XII takes place, Balthier is a 22-year-old, six-foot-tall sky pirate with seemingly little in the way of cares or worries. He’s a Hume, the Ivlacian equivalent of the human race, the most prevalent in the world.
He’s frequently seen with this gun, partner Fran, and his personal airship the Strahl. We mentioned earlier, he’s a self-toted gentleman and refers to himself as the “leading man” of whatever story he fancies himself a part of.
A ladies’ man, Balthier doesn’t hesitate to flirt with the women he comes across on his journey. With a dry sense of humor, he often cracks witty jokes without so much as a smile. He’s not afraid to get in someone’s face, yet knows when to avoid a fight. When not treasure hunting, you’ll likely find Balthier drinking at the bar.
Even as a sky pirate, Balthier dresses in a way that’s most becoming of a noble. A gold-colored vest sits over the top of a white collared shirt with a neck guard and buckle around the back for tightening. He adorns tight leather pants with open-backed sandals and pouches on either side of his waist held in place with belts.
His left arm and wrist are emblazoned with colorful rings and bracelets of unknown origin. He sports multiple earrings in both ears. Perhaps the spoils of past thieveries?
He keeps his brown hair short and neat, with blond highlights peppered in. A bit hard to tell from the game, Balthier’s eyes are green and piercing. In still shots, he is often depicted with a gun.
Balthier becomes one of the main protagonists of Final Fantasy XII, whether he originally wanted to or not.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
You’re first introduced to Balthier as a player while skulking as Vaan through Rabanastre Palace during a celebration. The seemingly simple sky pirate is looking to steal the Dusk Shard, hidden within a Goddess statue in the palace, for its potential value on the black markets of Ivalice.
Balthier works closely with his partner Fran, a Viera who has given up her past to pursue a similar life on the wrong side of the law. The two sky pirates work well together, as indicated by the impressive bounty they’ve managed to accrue even before the game begins.
With complex gadgetry and the airship Strahl that Balthier stole, Fran and Balthier arrive at the Dusk Shard’s location inside the palace shortly after Vaan beats them to the punch. Our would-be thieves confront Vaan about his acquisition, but all three are quickly swept up in a rebel attack.
While barely escaping with their lives on Balthier’s hoverbike, they crash land into the sewers as the rebel conflict rages on. The sky pirates and Vaan decide to work together to navigate out of the sewers in one piece. It’s here that Balthier hints at his good character by not betraying Vaan or stealing the Dusk Shard when the moment arose.
Freedom is short-lived for Balthier, Fran, and Vaan, as they are arrested by the Imperial Guard. After a timely breakout, Balthier and Fran leave the Dusk Shard in Vaan’s hands and decide to head off in search of other treasure.
However, the sky pirates are reluctantly brought back into the mix when Vaan’s childhood friend Penelo is captured by bounty hunters looking for Balthier. Balthier finally agrees to help when Vaan offers the Dusk Shard as payment.
Little does Balthier know that this path would take him deeper and deeper into the resistance movement that would cause him to ally with the princess of Dalmasca. The sky pirate insists it is all for a substantial payment, even demanding the princess’s ring as a downpayment.
On his journey, Balthier comes face to face with Cidolfus Demen Bunansa, referred to as Dr. Cid. This seemingly mad scientist is behind the Empire’s manufactured nethicite production and the power to build airships. Dr. Cid’s thirst for technology sends him on a never-ending pursuit for more technological power.
During the interaction, Balthier shares the shocking news that Dr. Cid is, in fact, his father. His real name is Ffamran mied Bunansa, and he hails from the Archadian Empire.
Seeing his father and the destructive state of the Empire, Balthier gives up on his quest for treasure and goes all-in with the resistance. He plays an integral role in the final battle against Vayne Solidor with the other heroes.
When the Empire’s flagship Bahamut ends up on a collision course with Rabanastre, Balthier and Fran leave the Strahl in Vaan and Penelo’s hands. Facing certain doom, the sky pirates stay behind on the Bahamut to steer it clear of the city. The airship crashes outside the city with Balthier and Fran still aboard.
In the epilogue, we are made aware that the “leading man” does indeed survive. Balthier “steals” the Strahl back from Vaan and Penelo, escaping into the limelight while passing on the title to Vaan. Balthier also leaves the princess’s ring for her alongside a letter stating that he found the treasure he was looking for.
Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings
In the stand-alone sequel for the Nintendo DS, Balthier and Fran reconnect with new sky pirates Vaan and Penelo while searching for treasure in the Glabados Ruins. Little do the four know that this “coincidental” crossing of paths would lead to a new adventure.
Although Vaan and Penelo are the focal characters, the journey takes the four heroes from FFXII: The Zodiac Age (and some new ones) to a new continent and into the presence of a race of angelic beings.
During the story, Balthier makes some decisions that draw into question his ultimately heroic character that we came to see in the Zodiac Age. As the story progresses, however, it becomes clear that Balthier’s actions always put the interests of his group first. After joining the team with Fran for the sole purpose of defeating the evil at work.
This time, Fran and Balthier again go off on their own to search for the next elusive treasure to hunt.
Balthier Before the Events of FFXII As Ffamran mied Bunansa
Having a father in a high position in the Empire helped Ffamran find a career path in the Archadian military. After a quick promotion to Judge, Ffamran became disillusioned with the Empire and his father’s maniacal methods. Ffamran hung up his judge’s cowl and fled the Archadia, stealing the Strahl in the process.
How to Play As Balthier in Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
Although Balthier enters your party with a gun, The Zodiac Age’s job system makes it possible to take the gentleman thief in any direction you’d like to. Given his stats, there are more optimal classes than others, but with a well-balanced team, there’s no terrible option.
The dude has a large amount of strength and the highest speed stat in the game. On the flip side of the coin he probably stole, Balthier lacks in both MP and Magick Power. I wouldn’t recommend choosing a spellcasting class as his main role, as other characters do those jobs much better.
While Balthier does look good with a gun, the game doesn’t tell you that he’s just not that good with it. As much as I wanted to keep him with his weapon of choice, his stats just don’t speak to it. Guns may be useful against flying enemies but don’t add much to enemies on the ground. Worse yet, the weapon doesn’t benefit from strength or speed at all.
Balthier is best-suited toward those that allow him to make the most of his speed stat. His strength and vitality reveal that he’s better on the front line, and I use Balthier as a DPS/off-tank instead of anything ranged.
Balthier’s Best Jobs
Of the 12 classes available, these four speak to me as the best options for the sky pirate:
- Shikari: What better class for a thief than Shikari? The Shikari is the theoretic sneaky class with high evasion and daggers. Balthier can also access ninja swords as he progresses through his job board. There are also a few white magicks sprinkled in for extra healing.
- Bushi: I see your thief and raise you samurai. This class utilizes katana that Balthier can get up close and personal with. Bushi has no magicks on its job board but does include magick boosts that could benefit a supplemental class.
- Knight: The bread and butter tank of the Final Fantasy series, Balthier can play this class fairly well with a high strength and vitality. It doesn’t play as well into his speed as the other two classes do.
- Archer: Bows are slow but do incorporate strength and speed into their mechanic. The class fuels Balthier’s stats well, but does pull him off the front line where he can help take a few hits.
After a certain point in the game (on average 15 hours in), you’ll unlock the ability to add an additional job to compliment the first. Here are my favorite combos for making Balthier even more effective on the battlefield.
Shikari/Foebreaker: Shikari’s speed and abilities give Foebreaker the tools it needs to succeed. If you choose to use hammers, you’ll want the speed to buff the attack rate of the slow weapon. Balthier becomes an even better tank and has traits to hinder the enemy.
This is the class combo I chose for Balthier during my last playthrough and I absolutely LOVED it.
Bushi/Red Battlemage or Time Battlemage: Since Bushi buffs the magick stat so much, it makes sense to pair with a caster class. Either Red Battlemage or Time Battlemage add a layer of support to an already fast DPS class.
Switching Things Up
In an awesome 2020 update to The Zodiac Age, you can now change your class any time you have access to Rabanastre. By talking to Montblanc the Moogle at the guildhall, he’ll remove any licenses you’ve picked for a character, but you’ll get back all your license points.
The Zodiac Age does a great job of balancing things out so Balthier can still be effective if you really want to see him in a specific role. No matter what choice you make for Balthier, keep in mind you’ll benefit most from a balanced team of tank, DPS, and healer.
Quickenings take the place of Limit Breaks in FFXII and are obtained through a character’s license board. Each character, Balthier included, has up to three he or she can unlock. Using a Quickening requires a Mist Charge, which slowly fills up as Balthier fights.
Balthier unlocks his Quickenings in the following order, and they increase in power as you move down the list:
- Fires of War
- Tides of Fate
- Element of Treachery
As you progress through The Zodiac Age, you’ll gain access to espers that characters can unlock on their license board. Although you’ll collect a few from the main story, most are hidden away on optional quests that aren’t easy to find. Once an esper is assigned to a particular character, no other character can claim it.
This is significant because espers can pave the way to additional skills on a job board, but only for particular classes. To decide which espers are best for Balthier, look at what skills they unlock on the job board you’ve assigned to him.
- Zalera, the Death Seraph: Blood Sword Karkata for Bushi
- Cúchulainn, the Impure: Protectga and Shellga for Shikari
- Exodus, the Judge-Sal: +500 HP for Bushi
Balthier Gameplay in Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings
Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings plays out a lot differently than The Zodiac Age, coming across as a strategy role-playing game. The game is a significant deviation from its predecessor, appearing on the Nintendo DS handheld instead of a major console.
Balthier first appears in Revenant Wings as a boss encounter in Mission 29: Balthier’s Betrayal. Little do Vaan and Penelo realize Balthier is actually acting for their benefit, a fact that the heroes realize only after the battle has concluded.
The fight can prove a bit difficult because of the surrounding espers. Balthier also has Fran nearby as a constant source of healing. If you get stuck during the fight, you can trick Ba’Gamnan into knocking out Fran. This leaves Balthier as a much easier target.
Once Balthier joins the party, he retains the Machinist job and proves effective as a ranged attacker. In addition to dealing heavy damage, the sky pirate can increase his own attack and range while debuffing others.
In addition to fighting prowess, Balthier’s rings that were only decorative in the Zodiac Age now have bonuses such as gil increases and increasing attack range.
Quickenings return in Revenant Wings, and Balthier keeps the Element of Treachery quickening from The Zodiac Age. The attack does a heavy amount of damage to one enemy on the battlefield. You can unlock the quickening by defeating the esper Shemhazai.
Balthier’s ultimate weapon is the Fomalhaut. You’ll obtain this gun by completing Mission 77: Darkening Clouds Gather.
His best piece of armor is the Brave Suit, acquired at the end of Mission 67: End of Thunder.
Balthier in Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions
Balthier is a secret playable character in Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, a PSP release that takes place in the same world of Ivalice.
How to Unlock Balthier
Upon reaching Chapter 4, you can travel back to Gollund and read a rumor called “Rash of Thefts”. You’ll catch wind of a thief that’s stealing artifacts from the church. Interesting.
Next, travel to Dorter and read the rumor “A Call For Guards”. This note sets up a battle that takes place as you try to leave the city.
Our sky pirate will appear as an ally in the fight and will join your party after helping him in the ensuing battle. Upon joining the team, he quips with his dry sense of humor that he has experience chaperoning kids.
Balthier is an incredibly powerful character in War of the Lions and will likely be a focal point on your team. He has a special job aptly named “Sky Pirate” and comes with the ability Piracy to combine damage and thievery.
The sky pirate can use most weapons in the game but, like Revenant Wings, does his best work with a gun.
In Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, you can add Balthier’s sprite to the Sky Pirate’s Den by attacking 300 times. Doing so awards the title of Assault Striker.
Although Balthier becomes close to all the heroes in Final Fantasy XII, these relationships mean the most to him.
Final Fantasy XII never explains how Balthier and Fran meet. However, the event likely took place after Balthier flees Archadia. Whatever circumstances surrounded the moment, the two really hit it off and chose to work and travel together as sky pirates.
Fran serves as an equal partner in their sky piracy and has a deep understanding of the airship Strahl, a ship that Balthier takes particular care of. The sky pirates have established an intimate level of trust, although there’s no indication of anything beyond a partnership.
Cidolfus Demen Bunansa
Dr. Cid is Balthier’s father and an integral component in framing his son’s life. After assigning his son to the Imperial Judges, Balthier watches his father become mad in the search for power. This causes Balthier to flee from Archadia and his father’s influence.
When the two meet again during the events of the Zodiac Age, they end up battling not once but twice. Balthier realizes his father’s “madness” resulted from a rogue Occuria and attempts to reconcile with Cid as the man lay dying. Unfortunately, Cid remains steadfast in his belief that all he’s done is for the benefit of humanity.
With his dry sense of humor and quick wit, Balthier has some stellar quotes throughout the series.
“I’m only here to see how the story unfolds. Any self-respecting leading man would do the same.”
“With each passing day, the world finds new and exciting ways to kill a man.”
“Remember what curiosity killed. Just a friendly word of advice.”
“Incidentally, what is the going rate for rescuing princesses these days? Food would be a nice start… the good stuff mind you.”
“Call me old-fashioned, but I was hoping for a treasure whose worth we could measure.”
Question: Are Fran and Balthier a Couple?
Answer: There’s never any indication in any Final Fantasy game that Balthier and Fran are anything more than partners. It’s clear from their interactions that the two trust each other implicitly and have shared deep secrets.
Question: How Old Is Balthier in FF12?
Answer: When the events of Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age begin, Balthier is 22 years old. Revenant Wings commences a year after the events of the Zodiac Age, so it’s safe to assume Balthier is 23 by that point.
Question: Is Balthier Dead?
Answer: Balthier and Fran both appear to die at the end of the Zodiac Age when the ship they are on crashes into the desert. However, it becomes apparent in the epilogue that these heroes survive and are off in search of more treasure.
Question: What Was Balthier’s Judge Name?
Answer: When appointed by his father Dr. Cid as a Judge, Balthier (known as Ffamran at the time) assumes the name Judge Hausen. His time as a Judge is short-lived, as Ffamran becomes disgusted by the Empire and his father’s maddening ways.
No matter which game you find him in, Balthier is an incredible character with an often-concealed heart of gold. While seeming to favor his own best interests, he is often quick to help out his friends without recompense.
While never giving up his sky pirating ways, Balthier realizes during Final Fantasy XII that there’s more to life than treasure. With gun in hand, this powerful fighter is never too far when he has to step in as the leading man once again.