I played River City Girls a bit ago, and I agree there are some significant issues. It’s also kinda not a Beat em up, because it’s a Brawl-RPG, and so the game is very different in the beginning vs the end. Stats go up with levels and with buying new foods, which makes your characters move faster, which makes the entire game feel better and more responsive as you progress.
As you said, the blocking is, unfortunately, useless. I kept hoping that correct parry timing on blocks would let you interrupt an enemy’s attack string, but it never does.
I liked it overall though, because I feel that by the time you get your full suite of moves, you do have a satisfying ability to be expressive in your attacks. It isn’t really hard enough to care about optimal attack strings, so it’s fun to play around and enjoy the various animations. The different characters (there are 2 unlockables) are different enough to be fun to play with, although there aren’t really different strategies, just different animations. Juggles are possible, but not trivial, so they feel fun and good to land.
I liked it overall, but I was about ready for it to be over when it ended. Theres a new game+ that doesn’t really add much, as the harder enemies aren’t really more interesting.