When Kirby is off to save the day, sometimes he needs a little help getting the job done. To assist him are his Animal Friends. Riding on, under, or in them, they allow him to get to places he sometimes cannot reach himself. Each Animal Friend has a different way of using Copy Abilities used by Kirby. For example, when Kirby has the Cutter ability and his being held by Coo, Coo will shoot razor-sharp feathers out in front of him to attack if the player presses the B button. In order to solve certain puzzles and reach certain areas, some abilities will need to be augmented by using Animal Friends.
The Animal Friends were first introduced in Kirby's Dream Land 2 with Rick, Kine, and Coo. Upon defeating a mid-boss, a sack containing one of the three animals opens, allowing Kirby to pair up with the pet. Gooey and his female counterpart appear if Kirby is already teamed up with the Animal Friend that would've been rewarded. Their only purposes are to heal Kirby and grant an extra life, respectively. Female Gooey is very rare and must be seen at least once to earn 100%, adding 1% to the game's completion rate.
The next appearance of the Animal Friends was in Kirby's Star Stacker. The images of Rick, Kine, and Coo appear on blocks that, when like images were lined up, would react all non-pet blocks in between. Kirby's Super Star Stacker was a remake of the game, so blocks with the Animal Friends on them were featured in this game, too.
The original Animal Friends reappeared in a non-puzzle game with newcomers Nago, ChuChu, and Pitch in Kirby's Dream Land 3. Kirby or Gooey can couple with them to enhance their Copy Abilities, help them travel through the stage, or to unlock certain secrets to access Heart Stars. Most of them (aside from Coo) are given relatives (in ChuChu, Kine, and Pitch's case) or love interests (in Nago and Rick's case).
Rick, Coo, and Kine appear in the Coo's Forest stage of Kirby Fighters. One of them will occasionally walk through a door, attack the Kirbys, and return through the door. Rick spits a stream of fire, Coo tosses feather cutters, and Kine harmlessly flops on the ground.
Rick, Coo, Kine, and ChuChu also appear as collectible keychains.
List of Animal Friends
Only three of the Animal Friends make an appearance in the series -- Rick, Coo, and Kine. They live in Whispy Woods Forest near the village and only appear in a small number of episodes. They don't seem to have any close relationship with Kirby, but they do tend to get along and will help him out when he needs it. Kirby never travels with them and the ability combining is absent.
Nago was intended to appear in the series, but only a few sketches of him were drawn before the idea was scrapped. He may have served as an inspiration for Chef Nagoya's design, though this remains unconfirmed.
- The original project proposal for Kirby's Dream Land 2 included concept artwork of Kirby riding a four-legged tank. The development team received feedback that riding animals would fit Kirby's personality better, so the tank was replaced with the three Animal Friends.
- However, the idea of Kirby riding a tank did see the light of day in several games released in the 2010s: Kirby's Epic Yarn, Kirby Mass Attack, and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. The later game makes a subtle nod to the concept change from the tank to Animal Friends; when Elline applies the transformation, there is a brief Rick cameo before Kirby turns into a tank. However, the actual concept of Kirby using a walking mech utilizing Copy Abilities only came to light in Kirby: Planet Robobot via the Robobot Armor.
- The three Animal Friends in Kirby's Dream Land 2 are each named for their special traits. Rick, who specializes in traversing the ground, is named for the Japanese word riku, meaning land. Coo, who specializes in flight and air combat, is named for the Japanese word kuu, meaning air. Kine, who specializes in swimming and underwater combat, is named for the Japanese word kai, meaning sea.
- The American TV advertisement for Kirby's Dream Land 2 portrayed the Animal Friends as "tough guys," with more angry eyes as well as a menacing grin, as well as being depicted in a more violent manner, roughhousing several bikers; this parallels the "angry Kirby" phenomenon, in which Kirby is generally depicted as angry in North America.