I've gotten 95% of all animations and actions working. The last few are game-progression specific. I had also begun working on enemy AI, but got a little stuck. AI is hard to program. I'm too tired to do any more debugging, today, so I've moved into working on other things. The pause menu is coming along nicely, and the health system is set up and fully functional. He can even die, now.
Wow... that is a really morbid thing to be excited about.
Anyway, I think I'm going to go with the save system. The lives/continues system is rather antiquated, now, like the score system. Left over vestigial pieces of the money hungry arcade machines. No one cares about score any more. I was 5 years old when I started gaming on the NES and Sega Master System and I didn't care about score. Even in arcade-themed games, the player score was erased any time the console was shut off.
Lives are pointless in a game that saves your progress. All they do is give you a level checkpoint, and take the checkpoint away if you run out of lives. And who wants to be forced to go through a long, hard game in one sitting? Even hard games, these days, have checkpoints or progress save features.