Donkey Kong (SSB4)
Donkey Kong (ドンキーコング, Donkey Kong) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. His return to the series was announced during the E3 Nintendo Direct on June 11th, 2013. Donkey Kong uses realistic gorilla grunts like in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, although he now has updated voice clips.
Donkey Kong is currently ranked 28th out of 58 on the tier list, placing him in the C tier, and making him the second highest ranked super heavyweight in the game. This is an improvement from his placement in Brawl, where he was ranked 21st out of 38, and is his best placement in the series to date. Donkey Kong retains his outstanding power, deceptively fast mobility, and great spacing options, but he has also been improved both directly and indirectly. Donkey Kong now boasts great combo potential thanks to his "cargo up throw", which has been re-purposed into a very reliable combo starter that boasts guaranteed follow-ups at varying percentages, and even a guaranteed KO confirm into his up aerial at a small range of percentages. Changes to game mechanics have also improved DK: the removal of both chain grabbing and edge-hogging drastically improves his endurance and recovery, respectively, whereas rage supplements his power.
However, Donkey Kong retains many of his flaws from Brawl. His large hurtbox has become even larger, which makes him even more susceptible to combos than before. In addition, he remains very susceptible to edge-guarding because of his recovery's poor vertical distance. Nevertheless, Donkey Kong's strengths generally outweigh his weaknesses, to the point that he has achieved above average results in competitive play, largely thanks to HIKARU, Tweek, and DKwill.
As the second heaviest character in the game, Donkey Kong is a super heavyweight. However, he is also one of the fastest heavyweights in the game in terms of both movement and attack speed, to the point that he defies the typical heavyweight archetype. He has fast walking and dashing speeds, above average falling speed and gravity, and very fast air speed, but below average air acceleration. His large size also gives his attacks great physical range.
As expected, Donkey Kong's greatest asset is his power. In typical heavyweight fashion, Donkey Kong has a plethora of reliable KOing options (sweetspotted up tilt, all of his smash attacks, his forward, back, up and down aerials, his back throw, Giant Punch, and grounded Spinning Kong) and high endurance thanks to his high weight and fast falling speed. However, his aforementioned mobility and frame data (almost all of his attacks are faster than any other super heavyweight) gives him an effective approach and makes it easier to land his attacks, further complemented by his large reach. Also, his moves that lack KO power can be used for effective set-ups, thanks to their high speed, low knockback, and favorable launch angles, giving him a capable combo game. Thanks to these attributes, Donkey Kong can rack up damage and KO his opponents not only quickly, but safely, compared to most heavyweights. Donkey Kong also has the second best vertical and horizontal endurance in the game, being surpassed by only King Dedede vertically and Bowser horizontally.
Donkey Kong's grounded moveset is very useful; his neutral attack can be jab canceled for follow-ups, and can jab lock, his forward tilt is great for spacing, his up tilt is a decent combo starter at low percentages, and his down tilt has incredible speed and can trip opponents, making it ideal for starting or extending combos. All of his smash attacks pack incredible power and have very long ranges, while not being particularly slow either. To complement his ground game, Donkey Kong's aerial game is extremely effective. His forward and down aerials can meteor smash and can effectively finish off his combos or his opponents, thanks to their high power. His neutral aerial is very quick and can lead into follow-ups, or it can be used to give Donkey Kong some space. His up aerial launches opponents upwards, making it great for combos and KOing. His back aerial is long-ranged, has a long-lasting hitbox, and can be used to edge-guard opponents. The last three aerials can also auto-cancel in a short hop, further demonstrating their utility. Finally, Donkey Kong's fast air speed allows him to easily chase opponents in the air.
In addition, the aforementioned combo abilities pair well with his grab game. Donkey Kong's grab range is the second largest non-tether grab in the game (being surpassed only by Greninja's), while his grabs are decently fast, making them very easy to land. His pummel is fairly fast, making it great for racking up damage. While his up and down throws are rarely used because of their limited utility, his forward and back throws make up for that. His back throw is the tenth strongest in the game, making it a viable KO option. His forward throw is an all-purpose throw, as well as an excellent damage racker. Using it will open up four different throws, commonly known as the "cargo throws". Cargo down throw is a semi-spike and is great for edge-guarding. Cargo back throw deals 12% and can KO at very high percentages near the upper blast line. His most notable throw, however, is his cargo up throw, which can lead into any aerial at lower percents. Since it connects directly into his powerful up aerial at most percentages, this combo can be used to KO opponents at specific percentages, and has since been nicknamed the "Ding Dong".
Finally, Donkey Kong's special moveset has a lot of utility. Giant Punch is a deadly KO move, and a fully charged one has super armor, making it difficult to interrupt. Headbutt can bury opponents, leaving them exposed to any move. It also does strong shield damage, threatening attempts to block the move. Hand Slap has very long range and allows for stage control, but since it is a quake move, it has no effect on aerial opponents when it is performed on the ground. However, an aerial Hand Slap is now capable of meteor smashing and is not only fairly easy to land, but it is an effective one as well. Finally, Spinning Kong can be used as an out of shield option, thanks to its super armor and high damage output. As a recovery, it lets Donkey Kong move horizontally quickly and for a long time, giving him a very long horizontal recovery. Spinning Kong also retains its ability from Brawl to completely negate all momentum, against both horizontal and vertical knockback however, this is considered impractical and nearly impossible to utilize due to the changes to hitstun canceling.
Despite these advantages, Donkey Kong has noticeable flaws. His most notable flaw is his poor defensive game. Although his large size gives him high reach, it also makes him very easy to hit. While his out of shield game is strong, Donkey Kong's shield itself is rather poor, due to it being unusually small for a character of his size (like Ganondorf), making him heavily vulnerable to shield stabbing. His rolls and edge recovery options are also very slow. With all of this working against him, Donkey Kong is heavily vulnerable to combos and juggling, worsened by his lack of combo breakers (due to his polarizing aerials) and lack of good dodging options outside of aerial maneuvering. His moveset, despite being very fast in terms of start-up, is slow in regard to ending lag, making him susceptible to punishment without careful spacing. Finally, his vertical recovery is almost nonexistent, due to Spinning Kong's vertical distance being considerably low. This also makes it extremely difficult for him to survive even the weakest meteor smashes.
Custom moves can give Donkey Kong considerable benefits, more so than most other characters. Storm Punch has a wind effect, and is very effective for edge-guarding and spacing. Jumping Headbutt has more vertical range and a hitbox during the entire descent, making it a good alternative to fast falling, but at the cost of being unable to properly bury opponents. Stubborn Headbutt eschews its role as a pressure move due to its slow start-up. However, it has higher power and super armor, protecting Donkey Kong from any attack. Focused Slap and Hot Slap sacrifice range for paralysis and vertical range, respectively. Both are also potent KOing options, with the latter having high diagonal knockback, and the former having extremely high vertical knockback. Kong Cyclone is often considered to be Donkey Kong's most valuable move, as well as the best custom in the game, as it has super armor, a suction effect, more power, and the aerial version has greater maneuverability and speed, as well as auto-canceling capabilities, significantly improving his neutral game.
Overall, Donkey Kong is a potent character; with speed, power, range, endurance, and easy-to-use combos, there are very few matchups he cannot overcome. As a result, DK is, alongside Bowser, one of the two most effective super heavyweights in the game. This, in turn, is reflected in his presence in the competitive scene, as he has average tournament representation and above average results, the latter of which has been thanks to the likes of HIKARU, Tweek, and DKwill.
Changes from Brawl
Donkey Kong has been buffed considerably in the transition from Brawl to SSB4. The most noticeable improvement has been to his overall speed; his attacks, such as his signature Giant Punch, are now performed faster, and his already excellent movement speed has also been greatly increased, allowing him to better keep up with, and in quite a few cases, even out-speed certain lightweights. He is also much heavier, which allows him to withstand potential KOs easier, and enables him to become an effective user of the rage mechanic, which supplements his already outstanding power becoming even more effective. In addition, Donkey Kong's endurance has drastically improved, thanks to the removal of chain grabbing. Finally, DK benefits considerably from the removal of edge hogging and the introduction of edge stealing, which prevents his poor vertical recovery from being edge-hogged.
Although he was buffed, Donkey Kong did receive a few noticeable nerfs. His grab game was slightly worsened and many of his attacks now deal less damage. Even with the removal of chain grabbing, his increased falling speed and larger hurtbox enable him be easily susceptible to combos regardless, although he is still less susceptible to being juggled. However, these nerfs are considered to be largely negligible due to the impact of his initial buffs and especially because of the subsequent buffs he has received in game updates. As a result, he is considered to be more viable than he was in Brawl.
Donkey Kong has been significantly buffed overall via game updates. Update 1.0.6 saw Giant Punch's charging time decreased even further, whereas update 1.0.8 buffed the damage outputs of all variations of his cargo throw, which helped his initially weakened grab game. Update 1.1.0 gave DK his most useful buff, however, by altering cargo up throw's knockback to the point of effectively being re-purposing into a very useful combo starter into his aerials, most notably up aerial. Thanks to this new combo, which has been nicknamed the "Ding Dong", Donkey Kong now boasts as a potential KO confirm, much like how Diddy Kong did with his "Hoo Hah" combo. Outside of this, update 1.1.0 also made his dash attack faster and increased its duration.
Although update 1.1.1 reduced the shield damage dealt by Giant Punch and Headbutt, this was compensated by the increased shieldstun brought about by the same update, which significantly benefits Donkey Kong's powerful, high hitlag attacks by making them safer on shield. While the changes to shield mechanics also inhibit his effective out of shield options and his already unimpressive shield, these nerfs are largely negligible.
Overall, Donkey Kong's buffs outweigh his nerfs, to the point that he is considered to be significantly better than he was during SSB4's initial release.
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
Upon SSB4's release, Donkey Kong was considered a bottom-tier character, despite the good buffs he had received in his transition from Brawl. This was due to players thinking of his poor frame data and hitbox placements, below average grab game despite his grabs having above average ranges despite not being tethered, an average damage output despite being a super heavyweight, and laggy finishers. Opinions of Donkey Kong would slowly start to improve, as players later noticed he had indeed gained more than what he lost in the transition to SSB4, leading him to be seen as a low-tier character instead of a bottom-tier character in most eyes.
While he would gain dedicated mains like DKwill and buffs via game updates, it was not until update 1.1.0 that Donkey Kong's reputation would improve considerably. This was due to said update granting him a massive buff for his grab game in the form of his now-famous "cargo up throw", which allows for what is known as the "Ding Dong" combo, which is reminiscent of Diddy Kong's "Hoo Hah" combo, albeit not to the same extreme degree. Because of the huge benefits as well as the true combos that can be performed with this throw, Donkey Kong's popularity started to increase at all levels of play, with professionals such as DKwill, Average Joe, HIKARU and Mew2King making a larger impact in tournaments.
As a result, Donkey Kong was ranked 27th on the first tier list, and then rose to his ranking of 25th on the second tier list, before dropping to his current ranking of 28th on the third tier list, and losing his title of the best super-heavyweight character to Bowser. Despite Donkey Kong remaining slightly unpopular in competitive play, his results by the players who main him have been sufficiently high enough to secure his current tier placement.
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