Hero or villain? Yes, some may think this is a silly question when it comes to King Dedede, one of Dream Land’s primary antagonists. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. He may be Kirby’s arch rival, but that doesn’t make him a villain. In fact, he’s arguably one of the most complex characters in all of Nintendo’s library.
Let’s start with his character and personality. Is he the most likeable guy in the world? Definitively not. He’s loud, overbearing, greedy and has a bit of a temper, but that certainly doesn’t make him a villain. Let’s be honest, it’s not as though there’s any menace to his character in his debut in Kirby’s Dream Land.
He’s simply taken a bit too much food, and Kirby wants some of it back. It’s hardly the most evil plan ever invented. Not only that, but in Kirby’s Dream Land, he also proved that his somewhat nefarious plan was actually not a very good one.
Truth be told, the idea of King Dedede being an antagonist is debatable in and of itself, and there are many occasions when not only is he trying to protect Dream Land, but Kirby too. The first of these instances can be seen with Kirby’s second game, the 1993 Famicom / NES titles Kirby’s Adventure. Here we see the first example of how King Dedede is in fact clearly thinking of everyone, and is taking the tough decisions that only he can make.
You see, in Kirby’s Adventure, a mystical item called the Star Rod has been broken and its parts scattered by none other than King Dedede. This in turn has stopped the Fountain of Dreams, causing Dream Land’s inhabitants to either have nightmares, or dreamless sleep. As such, Kirby goes on a quest to restore the land’s happy dreams, and stop the “evil” Dedede’s plans to upset the kingdom.
However, little does Kirby know that he will actually be undoing Dedede’s heroism, and putting the land in even more danger. You see, King Dedede has actually done all this in order to trap the evil creature Nightmare within the Fountain of Dreams, and has done it all without looking for an ounce of credit. Just like a true hero.
Nightmare is a truly evil figure who aims to do nothing more than spread dark nightmares across the galaxy. In many ways he is the true villain of the Kirby series. Nevertheless, Kirby unaware of this actually becomes the one to release this true evil from the fountain, when he puts the Star Rod back together. At this point who steps in to help? King Dedede of course, doing so by launching Kirby into the sky in order to finally defeat Nightmare.
This isn’t the only time we see Dedede presented as something of a bad guy, only to find out that he was doing the right thing all along. Though granted, in his own unique way. In fact, the biggest evidence of Dedede’s heroism, comes in Nintendo and Hal Laboratory’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
Throughout the early stages of Smash Bros. Brawl’s Subspace Emissary, King Dedede is consistently presented as working alongside all of the other Nintendo villains by collecting up the statues. However, if you take a closer look, you’ll notice that he doesn’t seem to be following the same game plan as the others, acting somewhat independently. What’s more, he seems intent on placing special badges on those heroes he captures as trophies. Characters such as Ness and Luigi.
In fact, these badges actually turn out to be set to work on a timer, and when the timer runs down, the badge restores the fighters back to their original form. Essentially, once Dedede learnt that Bowser and Wario had joined Subspace Army, he began collecting his own hero trophies. However, this was not because he wanted to join their evil plans, but actually because he wanted to protect the likes of Peach, Ness, Luigi and the rest. Once again taking drastic action, and keeping his plans only to himself.
Following this, Dedede is later defeated by Bowser and turned into a trophy himself, before being saved by Luigi and Ness when their badges activate. Dedede then teams up with them to take down the true villain Tabuu. Although this isn’t before having a happy reunion with his arch-rival Kirby, someone who he is extremely happy to see is still alive.
The thing is, these aren’t even isolated incidents, and there are more examples of Dedede being something of a hero, than of him being a villain, albeit working alone and seemingly under the mindset that he can’t trust anyone. In fact, even when he is a villain, it’s only because he’s been taken over or manipulated by the true enemy, something that seems to happen with monotonous regularity. Thus meaning that his evil acts are done completely against his wishes, such as in Kirby’s Dream Land 2 and 3, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards and many many more games.
Moreover, in the latest release Kirby: Triple Deluxe on 3DS, Kirby spends a part of the game trying to save Dedede from being possessed yet again. Clearly showing the mutual understanding, and even friendship, that these two characters have grown to have. Rivalry is a funny thing, and we can be rivals with even our greatest friends. As such, isn’t friendly competitive rivalry a much better way to summarise their relationship?
All in all, King Dedede consistently presents a character that whilst not always be likeable, he is someone who is always trying to do the right thing, working for the good of all of the inhabitants of Dream Land. Sometimes, his plans are even better than those of the heroes. It’s also true to say that without his interferences, the true villains would more than likely have been successful.
Yes he may be weak at times. This in turn causing him to become an enemy of Kirby against his will on numerous occasions, but these are not his actions. To me asking the question as to whether the King Dedede is a hero or a villain is a simple one.
Yes, he’s not Kirby. His methods may be different, and he may have an irritable secretive personality from time to time. But the Penguin King is just as much of a hero in my eyes as Kirby or any of Nintendo’s other stars. Long live the King!