One of the things that has been sorely missing from Pokemon Go since the beginning is NPC Trainer Battles. I mean sure there are the training battles that you can have with the team leaders, but those skirmishes do not carry any stakes. This is why I feel that the introduction of Team GO Rocket (ridiculous name aside) is a step in the right direction for Niantic’s AR Giant.
As it stands the encounters are pretty straight forward. While playing, be on the look out for a PokeStop that is doing its best impersonation of a Silent Hill Nurse. Once you walk up to the twitching item pole it will turn black and a Team GO Rocket grunt will pop out to indicate that you can have a battle here. This encounter is made all the better by the comments that the grunts make when you approach them and beat them. Each grunt seems to have three Pokemon that all center around one. (Charmander, Charmeleon, Charizard). Each of these Pokemon will be rocking a shadowy aura around them. This makes them stronger than their average counterparts, so you might need to pour some stardust into your team in order to stand a chance against some of the tougher battles. Shadow Snorlax is a sleepy demon from hell and deserves all of the punishment it gets.
Once you finish the battle with the grunt you will have the chance to catch the first form of the Pokemon in question. You are set up, much like after a Raid battle, with a certain amount of Premier Balls based on your modifiers. It seems like you can get more by finishing the new Purifier and Hero badges that released with the encounters. The Purifier badge is filled out by how many Shadow Pokemon you purify, while the Hero badge is filled out with how many Team GO Rockets you defeat. So far I have only gotten 4 Premier Balls, but after a couple more battles this will most likely change. Once you catch the Pokemon you are able to leave them in the shadow form or purify them. Purifying your shadow babies makes them stronger, however it does cost candy and stardust.
It also looks like this event is just the start of a bigger story. The grunts seem to allude to a boss type figure pulling the strings from the shadows. This boss wants Team GO Rocket to take over the PokeStops for some evil purpose that is sure to be explained in time. I do find it funny that, what started as a Pokemon catching/walking simulator, has turned into a living world with its own lore that defines it. If this is how the next few years of Pokemon Go are going to play out than I am excited to see it unfold.