How do you feel about infinite continues? If it’s more complex than “yay or nay”, can you name some games where they work and some where they don’t?
I’m fine with infinite continues. Castlevania 3 has infinite continues, whereas Contra or Curse of Issyos doesn’t, to provide an example. Infinite continues (in an arcade game context) just means that the furthest you can fall back is to the beginning of a stage instead of the beginning of a game. It’s subdividing the checkpointing system a bit more. So you have say tier 1 checkpoints, midway points through the level, and you return to those when health is depleted (costing you a life), then you have tier 2 checkpoints, the beginnings of levels, which you return to when your lives are depleted (costing you a continue), then there’s tier 3 checkpoints, the beginning of the game, which you return to when your continues are depleted. You could honestly make these systems any way you want, not just conforming to this type of structure, and many games do, like modern games that only have tier 1 checkpoints and never cost you lives or continues, never sending you back further than the last checkpoint. There’s games that allow you to optionally enable checkpoints or not, games that allow you to destroy checkpoints for a reward (shovelknight), and more.
I think the question here is, is it fair to send the player all the way back to the very beginning of the game? That depends on the game. Games with limited continues are pretty much invariably arcade style games, which also means games that are maybe 30 minutes long at the most, averaging between 15 and 20 minutes usually from beginning to end. These games typically also don’t have persistent character customization or rigorous item collection, things that take up a lot of time and effort which players would hate to lose. Castlevania 3 from beginning to end for the average player takes more than 30 minutes. It’s much longer than the original game and that’s probably why it moved to infinite continues (assuming the original castlevania didn’t, I honestly don’t remember).
Curse of Issyos, which I’m still playing (got to path of scylla’s boss), can be completed in about 15 minutes from beginning to end, so it’s very reasonable to start from the beginning. Same deal for Contra, which I beat recently.
Dark Souls by comparison is nearly impossible without checkpoints. There is a special reward in dark souls 2 for not using bonfires, but notably you’re allowed to light them, but not sit at them. This means you can enable them as checkpoints and still continue on your journey. In a game that can run for a hundred hours like dark souls, erasing everything if you die too much is tantamount to cruelty.
An interesting game idea might be a game like dark souls, except you have a limited number of lives to continue from bonfires, and if you run out you restart the game with all your items and stats intact. So you need to clear the whole game on a limited number of lives/continues, but you grow stronger as you progress further, making the early areas trivial. Some game has probably done that before.