Though it doesn’t even have a firm release date yet, Square-Enix has spent plenty of effort making sure that Final Fantasy XIII-2 is firmly planted in the gaming community’s consciousness. Given the numbers sold by its predecessor and the rather abject failure of Final Fantasy XIV, this is only natural–Squeenix definitely needs another win in its corner. Ergo, the hype machine for Final Fantasy XIII-2 has started up in earnest.

To this end, Square-Enix has released new screenshots from their upcoming RPG sequel extravaganza, which we are happy to share with you, our loyal readers. Anyone who hasn’t finished Final Fantasy XIII and wants to avoid spoilers is advised not to browse these screens. The “secrets” revealed within are minor at best (and nonsensical out of context) but now you cannot say I didn’t warn you. I have consulted with lawyers on this matter. Note that these pics are all from the PS3 version of the game.

Readers of our Final Fantasy XIII-2 impressions from E3 may wonder what new information can be strained from this glittering cavalcade. The screens mostly focus on new leading man Noel Kreiss, whose transforming blade features in the new glimpses of Final Fantasy XIII-2’s combat sequences. We also get some closer looks at the world of Gran Pulse after the cataclysmic events that took place at the end of Final Fantasy XIII (note the views of Cocoon looming in the distance). Most fascinating about these screens are the hints about how the survivors are getting by in this new, untamed world. Perhaps the most interesting picture in the collection features a new Summon or Fal’Cie, reaching out from some unfathomable cosmic void. What this creature is and  how it might affect the storyline are, of course, completely up in the air.

One aspect of the shots that concerns me is the reuse of enemy models from the original game. This was an issue that bugged me mightily about Final Fantasy X-2, which seems to be this game’s spiritual precursor. Though Final Fantasy XIII-2 doesn’t seem to be recycling environments as shamelessly as FFX-2 did, the straight reuse of monsters points in a somewhat ominous direction. When considered with the rumors that a considerable amount of maps were cut from the original FFXIII, I have to wonder: will this new installment be a full meal in of itself, or merely a collection of quickly reheated leftovers?

Are you itching to explore more of Gran Pulse? Do you think Noel is dreamy? Share your Final Fantasy fantasies in the comments!

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is scheduled to be released for PS3 and Xbox 360 in the first quarter of 2012.