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An Animal Crate, also called a goodie crate, is a crate that contains an Animal Friend. They first appear in Donkey Kong Country and have since recurred throughout the Donkey Kong franchise. The contained Animal Friend is identifiable from its depicted silhouette on the Animal Crate. The Kongs can usually break one open by jumping on it, therefore freeing the Animal Friend, and ride on it until the end of a level.
Animal Crates have a similar counterpart, the Animal Barrel. Instead of freeing an Animal Friend, these Barrels transform the Kongs into the one depicted on it. Animal Crates are usually placed in areas where an Animal Friend comes in useful. For example, freeing Enguarde from his Crate makes underwater levels easier for the Kongs because Enguarde can defeat most underwater enemies. Similarly, Animal Barrels are usually placed where the Kongs are required to their pictured Animal Friend, for instance Rattly in Rattle Battle, because of his high jumping ability.
In Donkey Kong Country, all five Animal Friends had their own Animal Crate, including the Squawks. Animal Crates made a second appearance in Donkey Kong Land, where they retained their functionality. The game only has two Animal Buddies, both of whom have their own Crate: Rambi and Expresso.
Animal Crates returned in Donkey Kong Country's first two sequels, Donkey Kong Country 2 and 3. In both titles, the crates were changed slightly. Their sprites were aligned slightly differently. The Animal Friends' icons from the first Donkey Kong Country were also redesigned on the Crates. Animal Barrels also appeared in the sequels, meaning that a level may either have the Kongs ride an Animal Friend or transform into one.
In the original Donkey Kong Country, after the Kongs open an Animal Crate, it lies on the ground unfolded. It disappears after they move a distance away with the Animal Friend and return. In the sequels, the Crate immediately vanishes after the Animal Friend is freed. Another difference is that a short jingle plays when the Animal Crate opens instead of a realistic sound effect like in the first title. The Game Boy Advance remakes of all three games reused the crate-opening sound effect from the original Donkey Kong Country.
Animal Crates did not appear in Donkey Kong Land's sequels, Donkey Kong Land 2 and III. They were succeeded by Animal Barrels in both games, so as a result, the Kongs cannot ride any of the Animal Friends in either title. This is most likely because in the latter two games, most Animal Friends have special moves that they didn't have in Donkey Kong Land (for example, Rambi can charge), which requires an extra button (Select). Due to the limited amount of buttons on the Game Boy, this would leave no buttons to dismount from an animal.
Two Animal Crate variants appear in the 3D platformer, Donkey Kong 64. They are the Rambi Crate and Enguarde Crate, which are only usable by Donkey Kong and Lanky Kong respectively. These Crates function similarly to Animal Barrels—when DK and Lanky hop into their Crate, they transform into their respective Animal Friend. This only occurs temporarily.
Animal Crates also functioned like Animal Barrels in the Game Boy Color remake of Donkey Kong Country. Unlike Donkey Kong 64, whose Animal Crates had similar behavior to Animal Barrels, this game's Crates essentially function identically because they are not Kong-specific or bound by a time limit. The Squawks Crate is the only Animal Crate with the same functionality as the original Donkey Kong Country. This is because Squawks is the only unmountable Animal Friend in the game.
Rambi Crates are the only variant in Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, because he is the only mountable Animal Friend of the game. Donkey Kong can open these Crates by either Ground Pounding from atop or by rolling into it.
Rambi Crates are also in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, where they appear smaller than in Returns. They were renamed to Rambi the Rhinoceros Boxes. The Kongs can no longer open Rambi Crates by rolling into them, and therefore can only open them by Ground Pounding from atop.