Do you want to play Smash with sass and style? Perhaps you’re a swordfighter, looking for a change up in weaponry, maybe something with a bit more brute force, maybe a mallet? Do you wish to infuriate your opponent by living to the most obscene of percentages, coming back each time to serve a mightier clobbering than the last? Most importantly, do you want to summon the image of ultimate perfection, simply by holding down on the left-stick? If you answered yes to any of the above, the King of Dreamland has it all.
On the ground, Dedede has numerous options to pile on pressure and keep his rivals out. Most notably, his forward tilt makes him reach out with a spinning mallet, and it outranges most characters’ swords or close quarters combat options. His up tilt is good for covering the air, keeping airborne fighters in check and creating aerial follow-ups, and his down tilt makes him roll into his opponents, setting up consistent tech situations and jab lock combos. To finish up his grounded arsenal, dash attacking will send this flightless fellow into an all-in dive across the stage - a high-risk high-reward option which can also kill at higher percentages. The hitbox also lingers for a while, enabling two-frame punishes at the ledge.
While he may be a penguin, Dedede’s aerial game is nothing to sneeze at either. On top of strong aerial attacks, he has a total of four jumps, giving him strong recovery and makes him a huge threat (figuratively and literally) vertically. His jumping jack-like neutral air comes out extremely fast, trading favourably with aerial opposition in almost all instances, and fast falling out of n-air (normal air) also allows you to combo into grabs, jabs, tilts, or even another n-air, making it a decent approach option. Looking at his other aerials, his back air swing is his go-to aerial option when going for a knockout thanks to its high knockback. His n-air, fair and up air are all good followups to his down throw, allowing you to tack on damage early in the game.
The real flair in Dedede’s gameplay comes from his Specials. His neutral Special, the Inhale, sucks anything from projectiles to whole opponents into his stomach, doubling as both a command grab and a projectile reflector. This move is also the source for some of the funniest and most undeserved stocks you can achieve in the game. In a rough spot off-stage and your opponent is too close to the ledge? Simply hold down that B button as you descend, suck your opponent in, and spit them under the stage leaving them sweating to make it back to stage, or simply drop gracefully into the void of the bottom Smash Box and take them with you.
This goes hand in hand with his own projectile, the Gordo - a sentient spiky bouncy ball that can be thrown with his side special, and can cause a lot of damage, and even has the chance of sticking to the ledges to give recovering fighters hell. Combo this with the Inhale to send the Gordo at your opponents with even more speed and stopping power.
His Up Special, the Super Jump, sends him flying upwards, and eventually crashing downwards to devastating effect when landed on an opponent on stage. This does have immense end-lag and is by far the most punishable move in his arsenal however, so it is best used to simply make it back to the ledge. The insane vertical gain on this move, along with multiple jumps, serves as the basis for his recovery and allows him to make it back from seemingly anywhere. Lastly, his down Special, the Jet Hammer, is a chargeable mechanised swing of his already hefty hammer, which has super armour and the ability to break shields when charged up. This can be used in combination with Gordos at the ledge to force your opponent into unfavourable get-up situations that can give you the lead.
In terms of overall gameplan, Dedede is a defensive heavy, best played by keeping approaching opposition out with his disjointed tilts and strong aerials, while also creating openings and conditioning the opponent with his projectile and multiple jumps.
He shines most in dealing with his victims off stage - possessing some of the best edge guarding and ledge trapping tools in the game, he’s able to maintain this advantage state to ensure a stock. Unlike his other heavy peers, Dedede excels in the air thanks to his four jumps and high-reaching Up Special. This allows him to chase deep off-stage, while being able to make it back from what would be unreachable for most of the cast without a scratch.
He is an exceptionally solid mid-tier pick. Regardless of his strengths, it doesn’t save him from his lack of approach options, making patient play and zoning against him very effective and difficult to break. His rotund body habitus also makes him pretty difficult to miss, further making him susceptible to lengthy combo strings when in disadvantage, allowing rush-down characters to quickly rack up free damage on him. All is not woes for this merry monarch though - even with his glaring weaknesses, playing with patience, foresight and active planning will gain you the most mileage with this character. Use his heavy status and amazing recovery to live to really high percents, and this will give you more interactions to partake in and study, buying you the time to download and adapt to the other player’s habits, and capitalize in ways nobody else in the cast can.
Despite his flaws, you can’t really knock self-proclaimed perfection. If you are interested in learning more about this engorged, flightless bird, YouTubers such as D3nsity produce dedicated content, with detailed matchup guides and tech tutorials. The Dedediscord on Smashcords also has a plethora of guides and resources, including a 9 page document dedicated to Gordo tech alone. So what are you waiting for? Pick up the mallet and find the true King within yourselves!