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Pokemon Go Teases Arrival Of Team Rocket With Real-Life Hot Air Balloon

Niantic has teased the addition of iconic antagonists Team Rocket to Pokemon Go through a series of clues and cameos, including a real-life hot air balloon.

Pokemon Go Fest kicked off yesterday in Dortmund, Germany. During the final moments of day one, a hot air balloon appeared on the horizon. Hot air balloons have long served as a preferred mode of transportation for the gang. Jesse and James, recurring rivals in the anime, often ride around in a Meowth-shaped balloon while pursuing their latest scheme. Though the balloon in Dortmund sported a simpler design, the black surface displayed the unmistakable red R logo of Team Rocket.

Pictures taken during the event using Pokemon Go's AR mode show Team Rocket members leaning into the frame. This effect first popped up following last month's Pokemon Go Fest in Chicago. Like in Dortmund, once the doors closed Team Rocket members suddenly photo-bombed pictures snapped using the game's AR mode.

Just last week, Niantic released official artwork for Pokemon Go's third anniversary. Though easy to overlook amidst the riot of Pokemon and trainers, you can spot two Team Rocket members hidden in the shadows of a tree on the right side of the piece. 

Adding more fuel to the fire, Twitter user Chrales discovered mentions of Team Rocket amongst data for update 0.147.1. A new badge points towards fighting Team Rocket grunts, likely the reward for the "Battle Team Rocket" quest. Another badge suggests you must purify Shadow Pokemon, a feature that first appeared in the spin-off games Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness. Shadow Pokemon have essentially been corrupted through the capture of their essence by evil forces. Based on the datamine, it looks you'll have to rescue Shadow Pokemon from Team Rocket grunts who appear during invasions. 

Chrales found almost two dozen Pokemon with Shadow versions while combing through the game's files, including Mudkip, the Pokemon featured during this month's Community Day. Based on what Niantic has teased so for, Team Rocket may very well put in an appearance during the event. 

The next Pokemon Go Community Day will take place on July 21 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. local time.