What do you think of checkpoints?
Checkpoints and death are about creating context and building consistency.
When you screw something up, you repeat it. In a broader sense of fun, fun comes from succeeding at things intermittently, and succeeding more frequently over time (building consistency). So when something is screwed up, you repeat it to build the skill. Through iteration, you learn to overcome it. Guilty Gear Xrd’s missions are a great example of this in effect. They have you perform a simple task that builds a skill for a situation, like performing a specific combo, confirming whether the enemy is hit or blocked, performing a reversal from knockdown, surviving an enemy wave of attacks when you cannot attack. They then have you repeat this ten times, whether you succeed or fail, and judge you based on how many times out of ten you succeeded. All 10 is an S rank. You can repeat these missions whenever you want to.
Death just means sending the player back to a prior point. This can be a checkpoint, the beginning of a level, a mission select screen, or the beginning of the entire game. When you send the player back further, when you space checkpoints further apart, you are creating a context that bridges all the things that happen inbetween. This is especially true if there is health, or other semi-persistent variables that go up or down as you progress. When you have say 10 challenges in a row, and 5 hitpoints, you’re saying that you need to complete all 10 of these challenges, and only allowed to fail 4. Hitpoints allow you to fail in a small way and create this longer bridging context between encounters. Healthbars allow you to have bigger failures or smaller failures, so you can have different types of enemy attacks that are easier or harder to avoid and create challenges of mitigating damage instead of strictly avoiding it.
The key thing is though that when you have widely spaced checkpoints, you ask players to be generally consistent across a set of challenges rather than able to succeed at one. If you have checkpoints directly in front of and after every challenge, players can succeed at that challenge once and continue, if you have checkpoints placed further apart, then they might need to succeed at that challenge many times before they can continue. Across repeated playthroughs of a segment, players might die in many different places in many different ways, because they might have a general consistency at any one challenge, but when asked to do multiple in a row, they need to achieve a higher level of consistency to succeed overall. This is the path to mastery.
A corollary to this is, if there is a checkpoint directly after anything, the player is not expected to master that thing. Bosses have checkpoints after them because they are difficulty spikes to be overcome once, not basic challenges to become consistent at overcoming.
Please play Rolling Thunder on NES. It sort of has the lagging checkpoint system you described. When you beat a stage, you get a password for THAT stage, so when you continue you have to beat it again. Basically you have to beat two stages in a row to make progress.
HAH! That’s funny! I guess it makes sense that it comes from the password era, they did a lot of weird checkpointing things back then if I recall correctly. Dunno if I want to play it just to see how the staggered checkpoints work though, it looks kind of simple. Isn’t Code Name Viper better known for this type of gameplay?