With Nintendo‘s E3 2012 press conference this year came a lot of buzz, a little disappointment, and a lot of questions, as many gamers look forward to the impending release of the Wii U. While the end of their presentation may have fizzled with the Nintendo Land name drop and subsequent preview material, casual gamers and curious fans alike can rest assured this Wii U launch title is more fun than it looks.

Yesterday at a Nintendo press event, we got another opportunity to get hands-on with Nintendo Land and several of its mini-games that will be available in the finished version. As well as being a solid demo for the technology behind the GamePad — much like Wii Sports was for the Wiimote — these games were a blast to play, with friends and strangers alike. Without any further ado, let’s jump into the preview!

Nintendo Land Luigi's Ghost Mansion

The first mini-game we looked at was Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, in which up to four players work together and use their flashlights to expose and weaken a ghost, controlled by a fifth player using a Wii U GamePad. The alternate screen gameplay really shines here, as the fifth player can see what everyone else sees — a cross-section top view of the play area — but also his/her own character, which is invisible to players looking at the television.

Any light shone on the ghost will expose it to the other players, as well as damage it. If the ghost’s health falls to 0% health, the game is over and the other players win. Alternatively, the ghost can sneak up on players and capture them, temporarily taking them out of the game, unless rescued by a fellow ghost-buster. If all the players are captured, the game is over and the fifth player wins! Luigi’s Ghost Mansion was a very fun mini-game to play, requiring teamwork and quick reflexes to win.

Nintendo Land Zelda Battle Quest

Next up was The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, a House of the Dead-style hack and slash mini-game for up to three players, and one more with the GamePad. While players do not control their movement, they can use their Wiimotes to cut down waves of enemies, while the GamePad player controls a bow, holding the pad up to the screen to check for enemies.

The controls are very natural and fluid, taking full advantage of the Wii MotionPlus, much like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword does. Certain enemies must be attacked from certain angles, while their attacks must also be blocked by holding up one’s shield and aiming it correctly using the Wiimote.

Nintendo Land Animal Crossing Sweet Day

The last multi-player mini-game we previewed was Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, similar in nature to the 4-vs-1 Luigi’s Ghost Mansion mini-game, but with an interesting twist. Up to four players with Wiimotes must work together to collect fruit dropped from trees spread out across the game map, some of which require more than one player to stand on buttons to activate the drop.

Meanwhile, the GamePad player controls two characters at the same time, who must chase after and capture the other fruit-stealing players. If all of the fruit is collected by the Wiimote players, they win — but if any players are captured 3 times, the GamePad player wins. This was my favorite mini-game by far, requiring plenty of hand-eye coordination while also having a quick learning curve.

Nintendo Land Takamaru's Ninja Castle

Last but not least, we tried out the single-player Takamaru’s Ninja Castle, based on a 1986 Nintendo Famicom title Nazo no Murasame Jō, which is currently available on the Virtual Console. In this mini-game, one player uses a GamePad to throw paper ninja stars at targets by swiping on the touch screen. As the levels progress, targets move around and even return fire, forcing the player to act quickly and deflect stars, swords, and more.

Overall, we found these four mini-games to be a great use of the technology Nintendo has put into its Wii U GamePad, each with their own unique control set and gameplay style. It’s certainly safe to say the Wii U is a logical step forward from the Wii, with plenty of innovative features available to entice long-time Nintendo fans, and casual gamers alike.

Ranters, how do you feel about not only Nintendo Land, but the Wii U as a whole? Does Nintendo retain a place in your hearts and on your shelves as a developer and manufacturer of unique gaming experiences? I can certainly say it does for me!

Nintendo Land is set to be released with the Wii U console later this year. Given the polish that’s been put on the hardware and software so far, it’s a safe bet to assume that release time will be soon.

Follow me on Twitter: @superkyol.