From Zelda Wiki, the Zelda encyclopedia
Like every single video game released to date, each game in The Legend of Zelda series is played directly thanks to the controller of the console that supports it. Over the course of the years, certain Controller Buttons have served the same purposes, therefore making Link perform designated actions. Below is a list of the most important buttons (most of them featured on all Nintendo console controllers and handheld systems) for the games and their uses.
The A-Button is arguably the most basic and elemental of all buttons, as it served a high number of functions and roles. From the most general perspective, it has acted as an action button. Whenever the button is pressed, Link performs whatever action the button's assigned icon currently indicates. These actions include rolling, opening a door, reading, talking to someone, pulling or pushing objects, throwing or taking objects, etc. When a dialogue is in course, the button helps the text advance; when an option must be taken, pressing the button will take the option that is being highlighted; in some games it can even display item information while an inventory is being navigated.
In the 2D games, it also has the attack command, meaning that Link will attack with his sword every time the button is pressed.
The B-Button has to date served four major roles in the franchise: In Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, The Wind Waker and the GameCube version of Twilight Princess, this button is used to swing Link's Sword (all other than the Great Fairy's Sword). In Ocarina of Time and the GameCube version of Twilight Princess, it's possible to change which sword to use with the B-Button (this is done through the Equipment menu). In some rare cases, the button does not perform the same attack command. Several Masks from Majora's Mask render Link unable to use his sword, and instead allow him to use a different attack (such as detonating the Blast Mask, or shooting bubbles as Deku Link); also, when playing a minigame, the button might be assigned to another weapon, such as the Bow or Bombs.
In the 2D games, the Wii version of Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, the button is used for item command. This means Link will use the item equipped from the Inventory every time the button is pressed, however in Skyward Sword - that takes advantage of motion plus technology; this is only if the button is pressed lightly.
Because when the B-button is held in in Skyward Sword the inventory selection screen is entered. Unlike the item selection in the Wii version of Twilight Princess, the motion plus allows Link to select items from the inventory screen in "real-time". This was a big accomplishment that would allow item selection without disrupting the gaming experience. 
The fourth major purpose relates to menus and dialogues, and in these cases it's a cancel command. If there is an option to perform an action, pressing B will usually be equivalent to pressing A while choosing the "No" (or any equivalent) answer. This extends to the usage of an item that switches the perspective to first person, or simply viewing something in first person: Pressing B will switch it back to third person, and any item to be used will be put away.
C-Button and C-Stick
There are 4 C-Buttons on the Nintendo 64 controller: Up, Down, Left, Right. In the Nintendo 64 games the Up C-Button is used to switch the perspective from third to first person (and viceversa when it's pressed again), as well as to talk to the fairy companion (Navi or Tatl) when either wants to give the young hero an advice. The other three buttons are for use of the items equipped from the inventory, allowing a better paced item usage than in the older games (where only one item was usable at a time, with the B-button). Thus, to use an item equipped to (for example) the Right C-Button, the player simply has to press Right C.
The GameCube controller replaces the C-Buttons with the C-Stick, which (in both 3D Zelda games for this system) has two funtions: Tilting it adjusts freely the camera perspective; also, when L is pressed to pinpoint Link's current sight direction, tilting it up will switch the camera to first person.
In the 3D games, whereas the B Button serves as the attack role, the R Button serves as the defense role. In the Nintendo 64 and GameCube games, Link uses his shield for as long as the player holds the R Button. This evidently won't work if the shield is either lost (see Like Like) or unequipped. In the case of The Wind Waker, the button gains extra functions. For one, Link will only use the shield when he's drawing the sword; when he's not, pressing the button will make him crouch (and crawl if the Control Stick is tilted as well); also, when standing in front of a wall, he carefully moves sideways (sidles) through it. Other actions include dropping an item (A will always throw it), pulling blocks or pushing them.
In the 2D games, R is commonly a dash button. In the SNES and GBA versions of A Link to the Past, Link can run quickly when the button is held. In The Minish Cap, the button makes Link lift objects and roll. In almost all games, R also switches the menu screens by turning right.
Z and L Buttons
Unlike the other buttons, neither Z nor L have had consistent roles through the series. In the Nintendo 64 games, Z aligns the camera with Link's viewing direction, and targets characters, enemies and objects as well; when the menu screens are displayed, it switches them by turning left. In The Wind Waker, it's one of the Item buttons (along with X and Y); in the GameCube version of Twilight Princess, it makes Link talk with Midna; and in the Wii version of the same game, it's both defense and a targeting command (simultaneously). L, on the other hand, only enables and disables the map in the Nintendo 64 games, but takes the targeting role in the two 3D GameCube games. Also, in A Link to the Past, L opens the Inventory screen and switches the menus (turning left) in The Wind Waker, The Minish Cap and the GameCube versions of Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask.
|Gameplay Elements of The Legend of Zelda Series|