TECMO BOWL / Tecmo / Arcade
The arcade version of Tecmo Bowl was the very first game in the series, but it's actually still the best-looking out of all of them! Sadly, it has nowhere near the features of the later games, nor does it have NFL or NFLPA player licenses, and the gameplay isn't nearly as refined as even the NES entries either.
It's also expensive as all hell, even by modern standards! The game shipped with two side-by-side monitors to create a wide-screen view (similar to the slightly later and better-known X-Men six-player brawler from Konami), and apparently they decided to recoup the production and shipping expenses through sheer gouging -- one quarter only buys you 30 seconds of playtime per player, and it'll take six quarters to actually complete a game. If all four players (two per team) are involved, that's $6 per game!
Of course, the price is irrelevant now, since you're either playing it on one of the Tecmo Arcade compilation discs, the Wii Virtual Console or MAME. All of which do a capable job emulating the original two-screen setup on just one, some issues with black borders aside. But the gameplay definitely doesn't hold up. Each game is a battle between Red vs Blue, no other team options ... and amusingly each player position at the cabinet has some random name assigned to it like "Larry." The gameplay is kinda sorta similar to the later games, but it feels like a much more unrefined beta.
For example, there's no choice of plays whatsoever. You seem to line up in a random formation each play, and prior to the snap you commit to either a receiver or running back ahead of time by cycling through them then stopping on the one you want. Once you snap you can then only hand off or pass to the one you selected -- no scrolling through receivers a la later games. The superfast computer will always run you down from behind, and it's much harder to "tussle" your way out of tackle attempts in this one, though the computer gets to do it about half the time. There's also no diving for insta-tackles here. Tussling seems to involve waggling the stick in this one too, instead of just mashing the button, which is more irritating.
This one was clearly meant to be a splashy spectacle game, drawing quarters out of the rubes for a year or two before becoming outdated and old news. As such it isn't really worth revisiting. You don't even get the usual boppy Tecmo tunes with this one, apparently the Rygar arcade composer did it and it's in a very similar style -- not awful music but kinda strange for a football game.