Possible Innovation: Continues That Count Up

Are Continues in gaming archaic? For years, we've lost our virtual lives in games but had the sometimes limited option to Contninue. What if — as may be the case in the next Mario game — the Continues counted up?

Back on Monday I described my opportunity to try New Super Mario Brothers on the Wii and my hands-off observations of the game's innovative Super Guide helper mode. As I reported, the Super Guide could only be activated if the player got their Mario killed eight times on a given board. Because the game starts the player with only five lives, the Nintendo rep showing me the game had to lose the five lives, then select "Continue" to get another batch of five and lose more.

The Continue screen flashed by quickly and I thought I saw a number on it. This wouldn't have been strange in the old days, when games offered a finite number of Continues, limiting the number times players could replenish their lives. On an old Nintendo Entertainment System, maybe you'd have three Continues, offering four lives each. Losing lives would usually revert you back to the beginning of a level. Using a Continue could knock you back to the beginning of a series of levels. Losing all Continues might bounce you back to the beginning of a game.

I asked the Nintendo rep who was showing me Super Guide: If New Super Mario Bros. was going to be progressive and kind to its worse players, why would it offer limited continues?

The Continues don't count down, she told me. Not in this pre-release version of the game. The player can keep using Continues. If they are counted at all — and that's what I'm not clear on as of the writing of this post — they'll count up. She implied they would, that they'd show in some way that gamers needed to rely on them.

I left the demo wondering how a system that counts Continues would be regarded by gamers. Would people mind if the game exposed how many Continues they used? Would it expose Continues as an unneeded metric that complicates the calculation of the number of Lives the player used?

We'll find out in about a month exactly how the Continues system works in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. But for now, let us ponder the possible innovation of video game Continues that will tally the groups of lives you've lost.