Whether it’s by drawing rapid little circles on the edge of the touch screen, or by pushing the A, or even the R, button, rolling is always in Zelda games these days. I remember the first time I played Ocarina of Time, way back when. As I was first exploring the game’s controls, I came across the blue ‘action icon’, which we’re supposed to pay extra attention to remember, to note what it says. Well I noted that it said ‘attack’, yet all Link ever did was roll forward. ‘How is that an attack?’ I wondered, but the answer never came, as my desire for the answer eventually faded. In Twilight Princess the beloved ‘attack’ was finally changed to the word ‘roll’; quite clearly more fitting. The question that still remains though is to the necessity of Link rolling around. Has the roll ever served as more than a button filler? Has it limited the potential of the A button?
To answer that, we have to think of all of the possibilities. As it is in numerous other games, such as Mario, the A button could have been the jump button; however, apart from in The Adventure of Link, jumping has never been a manually controllable feature in Zelda. What else could it have done then? It could have been another item button, perhaps, but it’s not my job to be creative in game mechanics, it’s Nintendo’s, so I’m sure that they could have conjured up many uses for the A button. They could have made it do almost anything, even added in elements to the game that us fans can’t even conjure, but you know what, they didn’t. Nintendo specifically choose to make it the roll button.
Maybe the A button could have made Link run faster when it was held down. Surely that would make more sense than continuous rolling being faster than traveling by foot. If you’re someone that watches speed-runs, or even someone who knows what they have to do in a Zelda game and wants to get it done quickly, then you’d be a fan of rolling. It’s one of the unexplained mysteries of the Zelda universe as to why somersaulting is faster than running, why Link never gets dizzy, and how the hell it’s possible to roll up stairs and ledges, yet regardless, rolling has become the primary travel method for many a Zelda player. Not only does the fabled roll quicken things up, it gives that extra boost on jumps, makes glitches possible, lets you roll between Ganon’s legs to attack his tail, and sometimes even makes Link infallible to enemies’ attacks. From my many years of playing Zelda, I can tell you that rolling can surprisingly do a lot, but there’s one thing rolling doesn’t do, and that is attack.
In Twilight Princess the roll was spiced up, as a sword swing directly after a somersault produced the powerful ‘roll stab’. In the latest release, Phantom Hourglass, the developers reinvented rolling with the stylus, and for once, Link actually became dizzy after three continuous rolls. Nevertheless, rolling has been incorporated in recent releases, despite the complete overhaul of controls with the touch generation. As well as rolls, we could also really ask about the necessity of backflips, other than looking like a pro in the middle of combat. Along with rolling, they are definitely a unique and interesting thing to include in the controls. Maybe when first implemented, rolling was a very bizarre choice, but not anymore. Rolling has become something much more important to the players. Rolling is Zelda, and so, we should think that it will continue, into Spirit Tracks, Zelda Wii and beyond. Initially rolling may have been a waste of potential, but now, we’ll never know. We’ve all come to love rolling. It has built itself a legacy, one that will not come to an end; at least not in the heart of the players.