Joystiq - The Game That Wasn't There
The Game That Wasn't There is an op-ed piece at Joystiq that laments the disappearance "Western RPG as they used to be, before Bioware and Bethesda took up the reins of Western RPGdom". Small party sizes, not enough character creation options and an emphasis on action combat are all addressed:
Compare that to the present, when the magical number for party size appears to be four or less, if there is any party at all. BioWare certainly seems to see things this way, with Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect using the trio as the party size of choice, and Dragon Age going for the quartet. Of course, these games aren't limited to three playable characters; they just let you collect party members and keep them sitting around back at camp/on a spaceship doing nothing while you select the two you wish to gallivant around with. In an assimilation of the JRPG method of party management, the rest just sit around, waiting for their chance to shine/be seduced.
Source: No Mutants Allowed