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 and roars like in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, although he now has updated voice clips, instead of being voiced by Takashi Nagasako.
Donkey Kong ranks 22nd out of 55 on the tier list, placing him in the C tier, and making him the highest ranked super heavyweight in the game. This is also a moderate improvement from Donkey Kong's mid tier 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 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 and extremely damaging follow-ups at varying percentages, alongside KO confirms into his up aerial at a wide range of percents. Changes to game mechanics have also improved DK: the removal of both chain grabbing and edge-hogging drastically improve his endurance and recovery, respectively, whereas rage supplements his power, granting him an effective advantage state.
However, Donkey Kong retains many of his flaws from Brawl. His large hurtbox has become even larger, making 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 and safety, alongside his ineffective ledge options. Finally, many of Donkey Kong's moves are surprisingly unsafe on hit at very low percentages, and he has major issues dealing with crossups or spaced aerials on shield due to his slow out of shield options.
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, Konga and DKwill.
As the second heaviest character in the game, Donkey Kong is a super heavyweight, as expected. However, despite his weight, he sports surprisingly excellent mobility and frame data, making him a non-traditional heavy character. He has the 9th fastest walking speed, the 22nd fastest dashing speed, above average falling speed and gravity, and the 9th fastest air speed, but in contrast has average jumps and below average traction and air acceleration. His large size also gives his attacks a respectable amount of 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 (his sweetspotted up tilt, all of his smash attacks, all of his aerials excluding neutral aerial, his regular back throw, Giant Punch, and grounded Spinning Kong being the best examples) and excellent endurance thanks to his extremely high weight and above average falling speed. However, his fast mobility and frame data gives him an effective approach and makes it easier to land his attacks, which is further complemented by his above average reach. Conversely, his moves that lack KO potential are effective for set-ups, thanks to their high speed, low knockback, and favorable launch angles. 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, as well as being able to set up into grab, his forward tilt is great for spacing, as it has long range and is intangible, 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 pursue 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.
Donkey Kong's 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".
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.
Despite being very fast in terms of start-up, Donkey Kong's moveset 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. Kong Cyclone is often considered to be Donkey Kong's most valuable move, as well as the best custom in the game: it grants super armor, has a suction effect, can be auto-canceled, and possesses greater power, maneuverability and speed compared to Spinning Kong. Altogether, these traits enable Kong Cyclone to significantly improve DK's neutral game.
Chopper Kong does no damage and grants less horizontal distance, but covers more vertical distance, enabling Donkey Kong to survive meteor smashes more effectively. Storm Punch has a push effect, and is very effective for edge-guarding and spacing. Lightning Punch charges much faster, giving Donkey Kong a more readily available KO option in case his moveset can't get the job done. However, it deals less damage, more so than Storm Punch. Jumping Headbutt has more vertical range and a hitbox during most of its 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.
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, Konga and DKwill.
Changes from Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Donkey Kong has seen a mix of buffs and nerfs in the transition from Brawl to SSB4, but was noticeably buffed overall. As for his buffs, the most noticeable improvement has been to his overall speed. His already solid movement speed has also been greatly increased although this is the case for a majority of returning veterans. Donkey Kong has received some new attacks which help him out overall including a new dash attack which covers much more distance and has much less ending lag and an aerial variant of Hand Slap which gives him a new landing option and edgeguarding tool. He also has additional intangibility on a variety of his moves. His grab game is significantly more effective as his grabs have more range and his dash grab is less laggy. All variants of his Cargo Throw have been altered and improved but the most significant variant of Cargo Throw which was improved was his up throw. His Cargo up throw has altered knockback which when combined with the removal of hitstun canceling and the changes to DI, gives it much better combo potential and at certain percents, it can lead into an up aerial for a guaranteed kill at very low percents especially with rage. Donkey Kong has received many benefits from the game's new mechanics. Donkey Kong heavily benefits from the introduction of rage as his increased weight enables him to live for a long period of time and build up rage, which makes his already solid power becoming even more effective and allows his "Ding Dong" (Cargo up throw up aerial) to kill opponents at obscenely early percents. Donkey Kong also benefits from the removal of chain grabbing as it improves his endurance against certain characters although he lost a couple of chain grabs of his own. 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.
Donkey Kong did receive a few noticeable nerfs both direct and indirect. As for indirect nerfs, the weakening to hitstun canceling does not benefit him as much as other characters. It does not grant him much better combo ability and it makes him much easier to combo combined with his higher weight, falling speed and gravity and it significantly hinders his endurance especially horizontally although it combined with his altered Cargo up throw gives him incredible followup potential including his "Ding Dong" (which greatly makes up for the removal of hitstun canceling). The removal of glide tossing and edge momentum shifting also hinder his mobility in certain situations. As for his direct nerfs, his overall damage output and KO power outside of his "Ding Dong" and rage have been reduced and he has less range especially when relative to the cast hindering his ability to wall out opponents and making it easier for his opponents to approach him.
Overall, the general changes to Smash 4's mechanics benefit him more than they hinder and some of his buffs benefit him quite a bit resulting in him being considered to be more viable than he was in Brawl despite the various downgrades his ground moves and aerials received. He was initially considered to be much worse in earlier versions of the game although update 1.1.0 gave him multiple beneficial changes most notably his "Ding Dong" resulting in players having a much higher opinion of him with most professionals consider him being a high tier character.
Donkey Kong has been significantly buffed overall via game updates. Update 1.0.6 saw Giant Punch's charging time decreased, 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.
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, mostly as a result of his pronounced weaknesses and his strengths not fully compensating for it. 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 4BR tier list, then rose to 25th on the second tier list, and then dropped to 28th on the third tier list, losing his title of the best super-heavyweight character to Bowser. Even so, the improved results of players like HIKARU, Konga and Tweek have allowed Donkey Kong to rise to 22nd on the fourth and current tier list; since the tiers were expanded, Donkey Kong has now become a high-tier character, in addition to recovering his status as the best super heavyweight once again from Bowser. As such, despite him remaining slightly rare in competitive play, his results by the players who use him have been sufficiently high enough to secure his current tier placement with some smashers claiming that he and Bowser should rise up the tier list even more as ZeRo has the characters among the top 15 characters in the game also claiming that "they have top-tier potential" while other smashers like Dabuz believe that they cannot be ranked any higher due to their many disadvantageous matchups and poor time landing.