Donkey Kong (SSBM)
Donkey Kong (ドンキーコング, Donkey Kong), shortened as DK on the victory screen and character select screen, is a default character in Super Smash Bros. Melee. He returns from the original Super Smash Bros., but with faster moves and agility, as well as an improved recovery.
Like Bowser, Donkey Kong has no voice actor and instead uses realistic gorilla grunts, similarly to his sounds in Super Smash Bros.
He is currently 17th out of 26 on the tier list, placing him in the E tier. This is a slight improvement to his previous placement in Smash 64 where he was ranked 9th out of 12. Donkey Kong, true to being a heavyweight, is difficult to KO, and this is aided by his fast falling speed. Donkey Kong also has powerful attacks, and he has excellent range to boot. Despite his weight and size, Donkey Kong is very agile; most of his attacks are executed swiftly, he has a high air speed, and his jumping prowess is solid. His mobility facilitates combos, and this is further aided by his remarkable grab. However, Donkey Kong himself is vulnerable to combos due to his large size, and his recovery, while covering a significant amount of horizontal distance, struggles in terms of vertical distance. Due to these traits, Donkey Kong is seen as a situational character.
Contrary to what his archetype might suggest, Donkey Kong has surprisingly high speed for a character of his power and weight class. In raw characteristics, Donkey Kong owns a fast walking speed, an above-average running speed, a high air speed, and a high falling speed (though unlike other high-fallers, Donkey Kong's gravity is average as opposed to above-average, with him having the lowest gravity value amongst the high-fallers; he shares the same fall speed as the significantly lighter Roy), aspects that lead to a short wavedash, but an average SHFFL, and long, safe dash dance.
Owing to his relatively high speed, Donkey Kong owns a flexible, powerful comboing game. On the ground, Donkey Kong's various tilts are all fast and can be used to start aerial combos, and in the air, Donkey Kong's fast, low-lag neutral, up, and back aerial attacks can allow him to continue attacking enemies with little penalty against him; adding to this, his high air speed can allow him to pursue enemies that have been popped up into the air. Arguably his most important combo tool, however, consists of his throwing game; despite a below-average grab range, Donkey Kong's various throws have low-knockback and low ending lag, making them excellent combo starting tools. His forward throw, known as the "cargo throw" or "cradle", is especially useful, due to its ability to easily combo into his practical air options. While carrying his opponent, Donkey Kong is free to move around the stage, allowing him to move to areas where he can more easily combo his opponents without interference from platforms or other hazards. He can also use this feature of the cargo throw to either perform a sacrificial KO by walking off the edge of the stage after cradling an enemy or throwing the enemy underneath the stage to stage spike them.
As expected for a character of his weight class, Donkey Kong also has a plethora of powerful attack options in addition to his faster, weaker offerings. All of his smash attacks can cover significant distances away from him, as well as packing significant power in order to KO opponents. Three of his aerials (back, down and forward) can be potent finishers to complement his aerial game, and his Giant Punch can easily be one of the most powerful attacks in the game if landed, though it does require a particularly good read or combo in order to be most effective.
Due to being a heavyweight with a high falling speed, Donkey Kong owns a below-average recovery. While these traits make Donkey Kong highly resilient to the upper blast line, Donkey Kong's survivability on all other blast lines is poor. Spinning Kong grants above average horizontal distance, but poor vertical distance, making meteor smashes and spikes extremely powerful against Donkey Kong. Owing to a lack of other options concerning his recovery, this also means that he has very poor recovery options compared to other characters; none of his specials can reduce his falling speed, and he cannot wall-jump or use any other tactics in conjunction with Spinning Kong, and as such, the character is simple to edgeguard.
Much like fellow heavyweight Bowser, Donkey Kong's various attributes also make him very easy to combo. In addition to having among the largest raw hurtbox sizes in the game, Donkey Kong's high falling speed and weight make it easy for characters to chain throw him, as well as combo him in the air. Compounding this is Donkey Kong's poor defensive game; a large hurtbox causes him to have a small shield that can easily make him vulnerable to shield stabbing, and his lack of a projectile can prevent him from easily approaching enemies that own one.
Changes from Smash 64 to Melee
Donkey Kong has received a large mix of buffs and nerfs in his transition from SSB64 to Melee. However, whether he was buffed or nerfed overall is debatable since the nerfs and buffs he receieved were both significant. While he has lost his previously abusable grab release, the generally faster falling speeds have given DK a new type of chaingrab against fast-falling opponents, particularly with his newly buffed cargo throw, and his new up and down throws. However, his reach has been reduced (though it remains among the best) and his power is lower as well, but many of his attacks are faster to execute. He is also more vulnerable to combos due to his faster falling speed and his overall endurance is much worse due to him being much lighter.
Regardless, Donkey Kong ranks better relative to the cast in Melee than he does in SSB64, now ranking 17th out of 26 characters rather than 9th out of 12 although he struggles even more against the higher tiered characters resulting in him being considered an unviable pick for competitive play.
Like some other characters, Donkey Kong was slightly altered in the PAL version of Melee. Donkey Kong received one beneficial change although it is not enough to drastically improve his competitive viability.
For a gallery of Donkey Kong's hitboxes, see here.
In Competitive play
Donkey Kong has an above-average matchup spread for his tier. He is countered by 5 characters, soft-countered by 5 (including Mewtwo, who is ranked lower than DK), has 4 even matchups, counters 6, and soft-counters 5. Donkey Kong does rather well against characters who can be comboed with ease, such as Bowser and Roy, and characters who have poor range/survivability, like Zelda and Pichu. However, DK struggles against characters who can abuse his large size and weight with chaingrabs and zero-to-death combos, and exploit his poor recovery, such as Fox, Falco, Sheik, and even Ganondorf. He particularly struggles against characters who can completely shut him down in the neutral game, which the aforementioned Falco and Sheik excel at.
Although DK has a decent matchup spread across the rest of the cast, his heavy struggle against some of the most commonly-played top tiers makes him very situational at tournament levels, which is reflected in his low tournament representation and mediocre results.
Top Donkey Kong players have argued that the Marth and Jigglypuff matchups are better than once perceived. Although DK has inferior frame data to Marth, his sheer range and solid dash dance allow him to actually match Marth in the neutral game. Due to DK's weight, he can crouch cancel many of Marth's combo starters at lower percentages, making it difficult to rack up damage against him. On the other hand, Marth cannot escape from DK's juggling or cargo throw combos once DK manages to find an opening. Marth still maintains advantages in his superior edgeguarding and hitbox placement, but the matchup is much more difficult for him than what was initially perceived. DK also does reasonably well against Jigglypuff for similar reasons; he is also one of the only characters in the game to have true KO setups on it.
DK's other matchups, however, have not improved, and he still struggles too greatly against Fox, Falco and Sheik to be a consistent tournament threat.
Tier placement and history
Donkey Kong is currently ranked as 17th on the tier list in the E tier, making him a situational character in high-level tournament play. This tier placing, however, is significantly better than his initial tier placings; Donkey Kong was initially viewed as a low-to-bottom tiered character in the early Melee metagame, placing at 20th/21st with Roy on the first tier list. In future tier lists, Donkey Kong would frequently appear at this rank, with his lowest ranking being 22nd on the sixth tier list. Much like Bowser, Donkey Kong was often derided for his large hurtbox and high falling speed, making him an easy target for combos and attacks in general, and despite his slightly better base speed than Bowser, he was regarded as too slow to keep up with many characters that were higher-tiered than him.
Devoted Donkey Kong mains, however, began to immediately improve Donkey Kong's metagame, notably by demonstrating that Donkey Kong's supposed speed issues were incorrect; it was demonstrated that Donkey Kong had a surprisingly fast and powerful aerial game, and that his dash-dance was also effective, especially when compounded with his throwing game. As a result of these improvements, Donkey Kong immediately jumped to the 16th place on the seventh tier list, and he ultimately peaked at the 13th position on the ninth tier list. His tier ranking, however, slightly fell following this, leading to his current tier placing. Donkey Kong's few active mains, namely Phish-It and Green Ranger, perform excellently at local tournaments, but suffer lower placements in majors.
Donkey Kong appears in a one-on-one, as an ally, on a team with Fox, in a giant battle, in a multi-man battle, or in the metal battle. Donkey Kong appears in Kongo Jungle or Jungle Japes except the metal battle, where he appears in Battlefield instead.
Donkey Kong appears in Stage 2 of Melee's Adventure Mode, Kongo Jungle, in two parts. In the first part, the player battles two tiny Donkey Kongs on Kongo Jungle stage and after they are beaten, the player will battle a giant Donkey Kong on Jungle Japes.
Donkey Kong and his allies are fought on Kongo Jungle.
Donkey Kong is featured in the following event matches:
In addition to the normal trophy about Donkey Kong as a character, there are two trophies about him as a fighter, unlocked by completing both Adventure and All-Star modes respectively with Donkey Kong on any difficulty: