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 confirmed on June 11th, 2013 during the E3 Nintendo Direct. As in previous installments, Donkey Kong also retains his realistic gorilla grunts, albeit with a new set of voice clips.
Donkey Kong is currently ranked 28th out of 58 on the tier list, placing him in the C tier, and his best placement in the series to date. This makes him the second highest ranked super heavyweight and is an improvement from his placement in Brawl, where he was ranked 21st out of 38. Donkey Kong retains his signature power, mobility, and spacing options, with his renowned back aerial remaining a quick and powerful option to stop approaches and deal damage. However, Donkey Kong now boasts great combo potential thanks to his "cargo up throw", which allows for guaranteed follow-ups at varying percents and even a guaranteed KO combo at a small range of percents.
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, while his poor vertical recovery continues to render him very susceptible to edgeguarding. Nevertheless, Donkey Kong's advantages generally outweigh his disadvantages, 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 speed. 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 survivability 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'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 percents, 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 followups, 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 edgeguard opponents. The last three aerials can also autocancel 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 decently quick, 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 10th strongest in the game, making it one of his safest KO moves. 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 edgeguarding. Cargo back throw deals 12% and can KO at higher percents. 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 percents, this combo can be used to KO opponents at specific percents, 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 utilise 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 ledge 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 startup, 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 smash.
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 edgeguarding 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 startup. 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 autocanceling capabilities, significantly improving his neutral game.
Overall, Donkey Kong is a potent character, and is perhaps the most effective of all of the super heavyweights. With speed, power, range, survivability, and easy-to-use combos, there are very few matchups he cannot overcome. He has average tournament representation and above average results, with dedicated mains such as DKwill.
Changes from Brawl
Donkey Kong has been considerably buffed 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 new rage mechanic, which results in his already fantastic power becoming even more effective. In addition, Donkey Kong is a lot harder to combo than before due 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 weakened 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, making it even more viable as a KOing option. Update 1.0.8 buffed the damage outputs of all variations of Donkey Kong's cargo throw, which helps his initially weakened grab game. Update 1.1.0 gave him a faster and longer lasting dash attack and noticeably improved his combo game due to cargo up throw's base knockback being decreased considerably, which gave Donkey Kong new follow-up options. The most famous follow up, jumping cargo up throw to up aerial, has been affectionately nicknamed the "Ding Dong".
Update 1.1.1 reduced the shield damage dealt by Giant Punch and Headbutt, but this was compensated by the increased shieldstun allowing Hand Slap to break shields more easily. The shieldstun changes in general significantly benefit Donkey Kong's powerful, high hitlag attacks by making them safer on shield. While the changes to shield mechanics it also inhibit his effective out of shield options and his already poor shield game, this nerf is 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 the 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 rather than 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, 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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