So after some more playtime... yeah. Still have to give T1 the nod here. Maybe pros and cons would help.
It all depends on playstyle I think...
1) Longer beam. I read above someone saying that it doesn't hit some angles that you can get to in T2. However it's the length that really helps this weapon. I don't know a boss fight that I've had in T1 (well ok, the big block-face in the alien world, but you can't use the beam period there) that can't be won easily off a long beam weapon.
2) Good balance of weapon powerups
OK, so there were only two, but they were easily nice and balanced. Laser was for most things a one-hit kill... but you have to have pinpoint accuracy. Spread was powerful but still took a few hits to kills stuff but your range and angles meant you could, say, nail cannons above you to the right before you have to jump onto the ledge it's lined up on.
T2 completely borks the weapon balance.
Laser - it's now almost as big as you. It's still a one hit kill. This is the 'too powerful' weapon.
Multi - It's a touch weaker but still - it's a nice way to clear destructible blocks or shoot at diagonals
Bounce - Worthless. Yes, it clears out cave sections, but this is accomplished easier, faster and more reliably by a jumping wave attack. When you can do it without triggering the 20 second super-crazy-ADD strike.
3) Death means timer reset
OK, here's a huge gameplay switch that makes T2 really hard to work with.
You die in Turrican - the timer goes back to full.
You die in Turrican 2... timer stays where it is.
I had three plays on the first level of T2 where I died near the end... spawned back but with only 10 seconds left. Rush to the end but get stalled, die again with full health.
No, that's bad game design. That's almost "Angry Nerd" worthy there. It might be the only game design error one can point out but it's there.
As for the graphics, I do actually think the graphics are definitely better in T2. Level 1's background sky gives me a migraine but otherwise I approve. But gameplay wise it's like T2 has the flaws that somehow T1 fixed. It's weird.