From the moment Baby Groot plugs in the music and starts dancing while the Guardians fight a tentacled space monster in the background, you know you're in for the same kind of fun-loving ride as the original. And though James Gunn definitely delivers all the colorful action, lovable characters and 80s soundtrack you can expect, he also delivers a few good more feels than last time. Nebula is given a surprisingly dark backstory that makes her rivalry with Gamora much deeper and more interesting, Star-Lord's relationship with his father is explored, and Yondu ends up stealing the movie with his arc, leading to the film's most powerful emotional moments. And while Ronin may have been an arguably boring villain in the original, you can't say the same about Ego . . . . a literal living planet definitely makes for a more interesting antagonist.
As for whether it actually surpasses the first film or not, for me it stands pretty equal. There's nothing here that really elevates things to higher levels than before, but it also never fails to be at least as much of an exciting ride. It's just another colorful, crazy, wild adventure starring everyone's favorite intergalactic gang of misfits, and that's about all I really wanted.