Soul Calibur IV is one of my favourite current-gen fighting games so since I enjoyed that when many thought it was too much that we'd seen before, it's probably natural that I didn't like the changes that V brought. Like I said though, it's not bad but I think you'll either really appreciate the updates to the series or loathe them.
I'm going to go in open-minded, and without any great expectations. I do like the sound of some of the changes. There's no harm is changing things around as if there is no innovation then you'll only end up bored with a series in the long run. I'll report back my findings in a couple of days
You mentioned the change in the guard impact mechanic - reminded me of the epic fights me and my best gaming bud from a decade ago used to have. We were obsessed with Calibur - but a lot of it was about getting one over on each other! He was really really good at the game, and I was pretty handy as well. I was probably better at Soul Calibur than I was at any other video game back then. I remember anyway this one day when we were having a lethal scrap on Rock's stage - we parried and parried and parried back and forth a full eleven times before one of us final broke through - that would have been me
It was an unbelievable match. Eventually he just got better and better though and then went on to the sequel, which I never really got on that well with.
Me and that chap used to play Ikaruga in co-op and Capcom vs SNK. He was better at those than me, though I used to hammer him on F-Zero GX and Advance Wars. We used to play Mario Kart on the Cube as well, which was enormous fun and then some, particularly the shine chase battle game. Probably the most fun I have ever had in a video game. Can't beat a bit of gaming with a friend in the same room