This little exchange has always stood out to me, and I’ve never been sure why. To put it simply, it feels as though Balthier and Fran are having their own conversation that transcends these few simple lines of dialogue. I watched this part a couple of times in an attempt to pick out exactly what makes it seem special, and I think it has something to do with their body language. Balthier often doesn’t look at people while they’re talking to him (which says a lot in and of itself), but he’s staring straight at Fran while she speaks. They also do this thing where they both lean into each other. If the bars weren’t there, they’d be almost touching. It’s as though most of what they’re saying is conveyed through those simple movements rather than through words.
Yes! Yes. Or to put it another way: the graphics were finally good enough to allow acting. FFX had some multiple-character animations, but I recall a lot more scenes where each animation seemed to have been plucked out of a stock set, or (at best) each character was being animated according to his/her own dialog. In FFXII, far more gestures were tailored not only to specific lines, but choreographed between characters.
Also, of course, two excellent voice actors help.* Fran’s odd hesitation on “Only…” is a bit hair-raising, and Balthier supplies the end of the thought, as two close friends would.
And maybe that’s part of it, too: these games often spell everything out for the player, but FFXII broke with that trend. Fran and Balthier often communicate with no words at all: a sneer, a head-tilt, and arched eyebrow, a touch, or Fran’s cat-like unblinking stare, which in some scenes substitutes for a smirk. (As when she watches Balthier throwing a silent hissy over Margrace upstaging him.)
*[I just looked up Nicole Fanti again. She’s a polyglot, born in Australia but living for a time in Vienna and Paris, so she created Fran’s peculiar accent from a blend of several European languages. Also, that was her first, and apparently her only (credited?) voice acting role.]